cmyphCharity 4Children has launched a new evidence and measurement framework for Children’s Centres to demonstrate outcomes for children and families.

The framework builds on previous research commissioned by 4Children and carried out by Professor Michael Marmot of University College London (UCL). In that case, the report, An Equal Start, set out the most important outcomes Children’s Centres should be striving for in order to give all children positive early-years experiences. A number of outcomes were measured, including on children’s health and development and parent–child relationships.

The framework is a new national evidence tool and will be vital in supporting Children’s Centres to maximise their potential and to demonstrate their effectiveness.

The report, Measuring What Matters: A guide for Children’s Centres, shows how Children’s Centres can meet the demands placed on them to demonstrate their value to their local communities about the positive outcomes they are achieving for children and families.

But decreasing resources in many areas of the country are increasing the challenge of achieving this. The starting point for Professor Marmot’s work was to recognise the gaps within existing assessments and set a clear definition and criteria for measurement based on the core purpose of Children’s Centres, as well as recognising on-going changes in working practices.

The framework focuses on a number of different areas, with measures of success including:
• Children developing age appropriate skills in drawing and copying
• Children developing age appropriate play, self-management and self-control
• Fewer children born with low birth weight
• Fewer children with high or low body mass index
• Fewer women exposed to tobacco smoke during pregnancy
• More mothers who breastfeed
• More parents regularly talking to their child using a wide range of words and sentence structures, including songs, poems and rhymes
• More parents with good mental wellbeing
• More parents increasing their knowledge and application of good parenting
• More parents accessing good work or developing the skills needed for employment, particularly those furthest away from the labour market.

Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children, said: “We will be drawing on the findings of this independent academic study to help us to continually improve practice within our own centres and ensure they remain continually focused on achieving the best outcomes for the families we serve. I hope that these measures will also serve as a useful tool to others in evaluating their own assessment frameworks and, more broadly, to help to improve understanding around the defined and central role that Children’s Centres play in supporting families across a wide range of areas.

“Most people working in the sector know first-hand the enormous contribution that Children’s Centres make towards supporting vulnerable children, improving social mobility and strengthening families. However, with the undercurrent of threats from local funding pressures, it’s more important than ever for all Children’s Centre providers are able to demonstrate a clear evidence based case for continued family support based on the impact they make.”

Further reading: 4Children to develop Community Childcare Hubs

Dr Angela Donkin, UCL Institute of Health Equity, added: “This report sets out the best measures available for monitoring progress on important aspects of children’s development, parenting and the environment in which they live. If local areas, and the services within them, utilise the same reliable measurement standards, this will drive forward improvements in children’s outcomes and build the evidence base on what works. However this will be of little value if only a few children benefit. We encourage local areas to continue to invest in effective early years’ services and Children’s Centres that are accessible to all.”