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Childrens Centres are pivotal in cementing the early years and for providing families with services.

Children's centre play roomAs a professional working in the foundation years you will be aware that there is an expectation that children’s centres, rooted in their local community, will not only provide a range of integrated services to meet the needs of the community they serve. They also have a role to play in bringing together all professionals who work in the area; to learn from each other’s expertise; and provide integrated support and extra help as required to families.

Reflective questions:

Find out about your local children’s centre – how can you in your role support the work they do?

Find out about evidence based approaches for the most vulnerable families in your local children’s centre – what can you learn from these?

Your voice is important as you develop systems and structures which will truly place Sure Start Children’s Centres at the heart of supporting children, families and communities in the foundation years.

The core purpose of Sure Start Children’s Centres

Sure Start Children’s Centres should have a clear core purpose, focused on: 

Improving outcomes for young children and their families, with a particular focus on the most disadvantaged families, in order to reduce inequalities in child development and school readiness.

This should be supported by improved:

  • Parenting aspirations, self esteem and parenting skills; and
  • Child and family health and life chances.

Sector leaders have worked together to consider what children’s centres can do to achieve the core purpose, including:

    • Assessing need across the local community
    • Providing access to universal early years services in the local area, including high quality and affordable early years education and childcare
    • Providing access to targeted evidence based, family-centred support
    • Acting as a hub for the local community, building social capital and cohesion
    • Sharing expertise with other early years settings to improve quality.

Read the full document: The Core Purpose of Sure Start Children’s Centres

Calling on your views

We need to continue interactive debate as to the detail of what the core purpose means in action. Have your say by sending your comments, thoughts and suggestions on the document, The Core Purpose of Sure Start Children’s Centres, to the Foundation Years team at 4Children

Multi-agency working

The important role that children’s centres play in providing effective multi-agency working is widely recognised.

Children’s centre outreach and family support are a key source of early intervention. Health visitors, social workers, early years practitioners and other early years professionals need to work together to support the most vulnerable families.

Every children’s centre should have access to a named health visitor who, as a minimum, will provide advice and run services through the children’s centre.

Children’s centres should also have access to a named social worker. This will help to build the confidence of children’s centres to deal with child protection issues, as well as support our focus on early intervention.

Reflective questions:

As a professional working in the foundation years how do you work with children’s social services?

Registering births at children’s centres

APPG Report on Sure Start Children's CentresChildren’s centres can work with their local register officer to register births.

Reports released by the All Party Parliamentary Sure Start Group outlines how children’s centres can take an active role in working with their local register officer to register births. The material includes a simple guide as to how to go about registering births in children’s centres and fuller information on the benefits.

Leadership and management

Leadership and management of children’s centres is a key factor to effective local services. As children’s centres evolve to become an embedded offer to parents within their local area, more responsibilities will be placed on leaders as they respond to: greater local responsibility, new models of accountability, sharing practice and expertise across the locality to improve quality, and acting as the local hub for the community.

Effective leaders need to:

    • Be inspirational and innovative in their vision for their centre
    • Be responsive to their families’ needs and engaging with all families in their community
    • Be focused on evidence based results and outcomes
    • Facilitate open communication with all professionals, agencies and the community
    • Champion integrated working and the sharing of expertise across professionals
    • Be motivational and empowering
    • Be reflective and committed to their own ongoing professional development.

Here are some examples of effective leadership in action:

Good practice in children’s centres

The Local Government Association (LGA) has published a report Bright futures: local children, local approaches in which a plethora of case studies show how councils are using children’s centres to help deliver early intervention through integrated health provision and getting children school-ready, to a more formal community budget approach.

The important role that children’s centres play in providing effective multi-agency working is widely recognised.

Outreach and family support

Championing integrated working and the sharing of expertise across professionals

Children’s centre outreach and family support are a key source of early intervention. Health visitors, social workers, early years practitioners and other early years professionals need to work together to support the most vulnerable families.

Every children’s centre should have access to a named health visitor who, as a minimum, will provide advice and run services through the children’s centre.

Children’s centres should also have access to a named social worker. This will help to build the confidence of children’s centres to deal with child protection issues, as well as support our focus on early intervention. The Government is working with representatives in the early years and social work sector to decide how this might look in practice.

Case Study: Ann Tayler Children’s Centre

Being responsive to their families’ needs and engaging with all families in their community

Steps into Music – An Early Years Music Project for Sound Connections

This project looked to provide Music and Movements sessions for children under 5 and their parents and worked as a way of engaging often difficult to reach groups. Read more

Case study: Holme Wood Children’s Centre

Being focused on evidence based results and outcomes

The SEADlings programme focused on language and communication development and was run by The Language and Development Team across three Sure Start Children’s Centres. A module with a particular focus on the areas of social and emotional development was developed in response to development gaps noticed between nursery intake children and those without any form of experience with peers outside the home. Read more

Case study: Rising Stars Children’s Centre

Being inspirational and innovative in their vision for their centre 

Emphasis on promoting a ‘Forest School ethos’ to support the development of two year old’s  language, communication, self-esteem, confidence and social skills.