MPs slam Government over response to children's centres report

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Elizabeth Truss has been ordered to return before a committee of MPs for failing to give adequate answers to recommendations made by the Education Select Committee in its report on Sure Start children’s centres.

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Elizabeth Truss has been recalled in front of the Education Select Committee

The early education and childcare minister is being recalled to give evidence in front of the committee to ‘fill in the gaps’ in the Government’s response to recommendations made by the committee in its report, Foundation Years: Sure Start Children’s Centres, published in December.

The cross-party group of MPs accuse the Government of failing to take early years seriously.

Graham Stuart MP, the committee’s chair said, ‘The Committee is disappointed by the inadequate response provided by the Government to our report on children’s centres. 

‘This is a hugely important area, as it is widely accepted that the early years are the time during which good interventions can make the most effective difference to children’s lives. We called on the Government to take early years seriously and we feel that the response has failed to engage with that challenge.’

He added, ‘The Committee has therefore decided that it will ask the minister to give evidence on the response, to fill in the gaps where recommendations and analysis have not been addressed directly and to explain the thinking behind the responses that have been made. 

‘Our December 2013 report was widely welcomed as an important piece of work and many agreed with our call for greater clarity on the core purpose of children’s centres. We intend to continue to explore how children’s centres can be made to deliver better results for young children and their families.’

In its report the select committee had highlighted ‘too much short-term and disparate’ policy on early years and recommended that the Government set out ‘coherent long-term thinking’ on early years and children’s centres.

In its response the Government said that its future strategy on early years policy had been set out in More Great Childcare and More Affordable Childcare, which it said 'put children's centres squarely at the centre of this vision.'

The committee said it was also ‘particularly concerned’ about the future of maintained nursery schools and recommended that the DfE set out a strategy for their survival to encourage the development of the network of nursery schools with children’s centres.

The Government’s response is the Fifth Special Report from the Education Committee, Session 2013-14.