From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

The National Evaluation of Sure Start

We are involved with the National Evaluation of Sure Start, an evaluation of a complex intervention, based at the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birkbeck, University of London.

Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) is an area-based intervention designed to create and improve services which promote the health and development of deprived children under four years old, their families and their communities. The National Evaluation of Sure Start, based at the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birkbeck, University of London, was commissioned to evaluate the effects of Sure Start Local Programmes on children and families in England.
 
This large scale evaluation previously found beneficial effects of SSLP for 5 out of 14 outcomes. A longer term evaluation of SSLP, funded by the Department for Education, followed 7,000 children to 5 years and a randomly selected subsample (n=5,000) to 7 years. Results were somewhat mixed at age 5, but were positive at age 7 for 2 of 15 outcomes: engaging in less harsh discipline, and providing a more stimulating home learning environment. Moreover, two beneficial effects were found for subgroups: providing a less chaotic home environment for boys (but not girls), and having better life satisfaction for lone parent and workless households only.
 
Previous work has shown that at three years a number of benefits were found to be associated with living in a Sure Start Local Programme (SSLP) area. These included:
  • Parents of three-year-old children showed less negative parenting while providing their children with a better home learning environment.
  • Three-year-old children in SSLP areas had better social development with higher levels of positive social behaviour and independence/self-regulation than children in similar areas not having a SSLP.
  • The SSLP effects for positive social behaviour appeared to be a consequence of the SSLP benefits upon parenting.
  • Three-year-old children in SSLP areas had higher immunisation rates and fewer accidental injuries than children in similar areas not having a SSLP. It is possible that instead of reflecting positive effects of SSLPs these health-related benefits could have been a result of differences in when measurements were taken of children living in SSLP areas and those living elsewhere.
  • Families living in SSLP areas used more child- and family-related services than those living elsewhere.
  • The effects associated with SSLPs appeared to apply to all of the resident population, rather than suggesting positive and negative effects for different subgroups as detected in the earlier (2005) report.
  • The more consistent benefits associated with SSLPs in the 2008 study compared to the 2005 study may well reflect the greater exposure of children and families to better organised and more effective services, as SSLPs have matured over time, though it remains possible that differences in research design across the two studies could also be responsible. 
Earlier results from the evaluation had indicated that SSLPs had beneficial effects on non-teenage mothers, but adverse effects on the children of teenage mothers and the children of single parents or parents who do not work.
 
Evaluation of this complex, area-based intervention is ongoing.

Publications

2012

The National Evaluation of Sure Start (NESS) Research Team (including Leyland AH) . The impact of Sure Start Local Programmes on seven year olds and their families DFE-RR220. London, 2012

open access  

2010

The National Evaluation of Sure Start (NESS) Research Team (including Leyland AH) . The impact of Sure Start Local Programmes on five year olds and their families DFE-RR067. London, 2010

open access  

2009

Belsky J, Leyland AH, Barnes J, Melhuish E.. Sure Start in England. The Lancet 2009;373ID - 876:381

open access  

2008

Melhuish E, Belsky J, Leyland AH, Barnes J, the National Evaluation of Sure Start Research Team . Effects of fully-established Sure Start Local Programmes on 3 year old children and their families living in England: a quasi-experimental observational study. The Lancet 2008;372:1641-47

pubmed  

The National Evaluation of Sure Start (NESS) Research Team (including Leyland AH) . The impact of Sure Start Local Programmes on three year olds and their families NESS/2008/FR/027. London, 2008

2007

Melhuish E, Belsky J, Anning A, Ball M, Barnes J, Romaniuk H, Leyland AH, NESS Research Team . Variation in community intervention programmes and consequences for children and families: the example of Sure Start Local Programmes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2007;48:543-551

pubmed  

2006

Belsky J, Melhuish E, Barnes J, Leyland AH, Romaniuk H, National Evaluation of Sure Start research team. Effects of Sure Start local programmes on children and families: early findings from a quasi-experimental, cross sectional study. BMJ 2006;332:1476-1748

pubmed  open access  

2005

The National Evaluation of Sure Start (NESS) Research Team (including Leyland AH) . Early impacts of Sure Start Local Programmes on children and families; report of the cross-sectional study of 9-and 36-month old children and their families NESS/2005/FR/013. Nottingham, 2005

open access  

Tunstill J, Allnock D, Akhurst S, Garbers C, NESS research team, (including Leyland A. H.). Sure Start Local Programmes: Implications of case study data from the National Evaluation of Sure Start. Children & Society 2005;19:158-171

2004

The National Evaluation of Sure Start (NESS) Research Team (including Leyland AH) . The national evaluation of Sure Start Local Programmes in England. Child and Adolescent Mental Health 2004;9:2-8

open access  

Project Staff

External Collaborators