Children's Centres: Closures

Department for Education written question – answered on 29th July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness McDonagh Baroness McDonagh Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the closure of Sure Start centres.

Photo of Lord Agnew of Oulton Lord Agnew of Oulton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Since 18 September 2017, data on Sure Start children’s centres has been supplied by local authorities via the department’s Get Information about Schools database portal, which can be found at the following link: https://www.get-information-schools.service.gov.uk/.

Based on information supplied by local authorities as at 30 June 2019, 587 Sure Start children’s centres had closed since April 2010[1]. However, councils are reconfiguring services to deliver them more efficiently. If a council decides to close a Sure Start children’s centre, statutory guidance requires them to demonstrate that local children and families will not be adversely affected. There were more children's centres open in spring 2019 than at any time under Tony Blair's premiership.

Since 2010, the government has extended the entitlement to free early years education so that more children than ever can benefit from this. We introduced an entitlement to 15 hours a week of free early education for the most disadvantaged 2-year-olds (a programme that was not available before 2010). More than 850,000 disadvantaged 2-year-olds have benefitted from free early education places since the introduction of the programme in 2013. There are now more than 22,000 providers delivering places for disadvantaged 2-year-olds.

The department is already starting to see progress. Take-up of places for disadvantaged 2-year-olds has risen from 58% in 2015 to 68% in 2019. The department remains committed to increasing take up. In addition, the 2017/18 Early Years Foundation Stage Profile results show that the proportion of all children achieving a ‘good level of development’ improved in 2018, with 71.5% of children achieving a good level of development, up from 51.7% in 2013.

[1] Based on information supplied by local authorities as at 1 July 2019. These figures may be different to previous answers, and could change again in the future, as local authorities may update the database at any time.

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