Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England

(DfE, NatCen 2009-2015)

The Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE) is a six year study, commissioned by the Department for Education, to provide a unique in-depth understanding of the effects of different approaches in the management and delivery of children’s centre services. The project is run in collaboration with NatCen Social Research and Frontier Economics.

New evidence on the effectiveness of children’s centres in improving outcomes for families and children was published in December – the penultimate report of the Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England, commissioned by the Department for Education.

On 1st February a seminar took place at NatCen where the ECCE team presented the findings of the impact study; this was a timely opportunity ahead of the launch of the Government’s children’s centres consultation.  You can download the slides as pdfs by clicking on the names:

The children’s centre team are delighted that the BMJ has published the summary of the national report of children’s centres. The BMJ goes out to doctors and medical practitioners all over the country, so it’s great news that the children’s centre cuts are being highlighted in this context – they emphasise the report’s point that: “children’s centres set up to support parents of young children can improve the mental health of mothers and functioning of families but that these benefits are being eroded by cuts.”

Access to the summary can be found here: http://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i335?etoc

The full report, ‘The Impact of Children’s Centres: Studying the Effects of Children’s Centres in Promoting Better Outcomes for Young Children and Their Families’, and its Research Brief, was published by the UK Government’s Department of Education (DfE) on 17 December 2015 here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/childrens-centres-their-impact-on-children-and-families

The ECCE Impact Report was led by Professor Pam Sammons, with James Hall, Rebecca Smees, Jenny Goff, Kathy Sylva, Maria Evangelou and Naomi Eisenstadt of the University of Oxford’s Department of Education, and Teresa Smith and George Smith of the University of Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention.

This report is one in a series of reports from a six-year study, the Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE), commissioned in 2009 by the government’s Department for Education to provide an in-depth understanding of the effects of different approaches in the management and delivery of children’s centre services between 2009 and 2015. The project is run in collaboration with NatCen Social Research and Frontier Economics.

Sure Start Children’s Centres are one of the main vehicles for ensuring that integrated and good quality family services are located in accessible places and welcoming to all. The aim is to improve outcomes for children and families. The programme is expected to play an important role in meeting the needs of disadvantaged children and families.

The evaluation aims to address the following five questions:

  • Are children’s centres meeting the needs of families in their local communities?
  • How do children’s centres offer a range of services that reach the most disadvantaged families?
  • How do children’s centres improve outcomes for children and families, particularly for the most disadvantaged?
  • What are the long-term effects of children’s centres?
  • Which types of children’s centre services provide the best value, and for which children and families?

The design is multi-layered:

  • Survey of children’s centre managers – baseline and follow up (NatCen Social Research)
  • Longitudinal study of families using services in selected centres (NatCen Social Research)
  • Visits to the selected centres to collect information about the range of activities and services that centres deliver; partnership working methods; leadership and management; evidence-based practice; area profiling of centre ‘reach’; and services available for parents and families (University of Oxford)
  • Comparison of user postcodes from the 120 selected centres, with the catchment area (University of Oxford)
  • An impact analysis (University of Oxford)
  • A cost-benefit analysis (Frontier Economics)

Current Research Reports:

A number of research reports relating to the Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England have been published to date.

Recent University of Oxford ECCE publications:

  • The Impact of Children’s Centres: Studying the Effects of Children’s Centres in Promoting Better Outcomes for Young Children and their Families (ECCE, Strand 4) – Technical Appendices. (Sammons, Hall, Smees, Goff, Sylva, Smith, Evangelou, Eisenstadt, Smith. 2015). Available here.
  • Organisation, Services and Reach of Children’s Centres: Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE, Strand 3) – Research Report. (Sylva, Goff, Eisenstadt, Smith, Hall, Evangelou, Smith, Sammons. 2015). Available for download here.
  • Organisation, Services and Reach of Children’s Centres: Evaluation of Children’s Centres in England (ECCE, Strand 3) – Technical Appendices. (Sylva, Goff, Eisenstadt, Smith, Hall, Evangelou, Smith, Sammons. 2015). Available for download here.
  • Strand 3: Parenting Services in Children’s Centres – Research Report. (Evangelou, Goff, Hall, Sylva, Eisenstadt, Paget, Davis, Sammons, Smith, Tracz and Parkin. 2014). Available here.
  • The extent to which centres ‘reach’ eligible families, their neighbourhood characteristics and levels of use – Research Report. (Smith, Field, Smith, Noble, Smith and Plunkett. 2014). Available here.
  • Strand 3: Delivery of Family Services by Children’s Centres – Research Report (Goff, Hall, Sylva, Smith, Smith, Eisenstadt, Sammons, Evangelou, Smees and Chu. 2013). Available here.
  • Strand 3: Delivery of Family Services by Children’s Centres – Technical Appendices (Goff, Hall, Sylva, Smith, Smith, Eisenstadt, Sammons, Evangelou, Smees and Chu. 2013). Available for download here.

Other ECCE publications include the following (in order of most recent):

  • Strand 2: Baseline Survey of Families Using Children’s Centres in the Most Disadvantaged Areas – Research Report (Maisey, Speight, and Haywood, with Hall, Sammons, Hussey, Goff, Evangelou and Sylva. 2013). Available here.
  • Strand 5: Case studies on the costs of centres in the most deprived areas – Research Report. (Briggs, Kurtz,and Paull. 2012) Available here.
  • Strand 1: First Survey of Children’s Centre Leaders in the Most Deprived Areas – Research Report. (Tanner, Agur, Hussey and Hall, with Sammons, Sylva, Smith, Evangelou, and Flint. 2012) Available here.

ECCE Staff at the University of Oxford:

Professor Kathy Sylva, Professor Pam Sammons, Dr Maria Evangelou, Jenny Goff, Dr James Hall and Rebecca Smees (Department of Education)

Teresa Smith and George Smith (Department of Social Policy and Intervention)

Naomi Eisenstadt (Policy Advisor to the research)

Page last modified: April 27, 2016