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Does Sure Start spending improve school readiness? An ecological longitudinal study

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  • Senior, Steven

Abstract

Background Early child development predicts a range of later outcomes including educational achievement, employment, involvement in crime, health, and social care need. Inequalities in early childhood also cause inequalities in health later on in life. Because of this, early childhood is an important time for intervention. School readiness in England is used to refer to an assessment of a child's cognitive, emotional, and physical development, and is a major focus of effort for local and national policymakers. However, evidence on what factors affect school readiness is needed to guide policymakers at local and national levels. Methods I analysed a panel data set of 150 English upper tier local authorities from 2012 to 2016, for a total of 750 local-authority years. I used fixed effects poisson regression models to test for associations between local trends in school readiness performance and sure start spending, non-sure start children’s services spending, and child poverty rates. Results After adjustment for local trends in child poverty and spending on other children’s services, local trends in Sure Start spending were positively associated with school readiness, both among all children and among children eligible for free school meals (an indicator of poverty). All effects were small, with a 10% change in per-child Sure Start spending associated with a less than 0.2% change in school readiness performance. Conclusion Despite limitations associated with the ecological nature of this study, it provides evidence that Sure Start spending may improve school readiness. This complements wider evidence on the health benefits of Sure Start, suggesting that this programme had benefits across a range of outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Senior, Steven, 2020. "Does Sure Start spending improve school readiness? An ecological longitudinal study," SocArXiv rbcz5, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:socarx:rbcz5
    DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/rbcz5
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