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Government quietly drops plans for payment by results in early years

A trial of payment by results in early years has been quietly dropped by the government after it did not work.

Elizabeth Truss, the education minister, told members of the Education Select Committee last week that the £3m trial, which 27 local authorities had taken part in, had ended and the scheme wouldn’t be rolled out as originally hoped.

Under questioning, the minister confirmed that the government was now ditching the idea of payment by results for children’s centres, sure start centres and other early years settings for the "time being".

Another MP Bill Esterson asked: “The evidence that has come back shows it does not work; the results of the trial mean you are not going to do it?” Truss replied: “Yes.”

Metrics being tested in the trial included narrowing the gap between children from different backgrounds in attainment at age five, breastfeeding prevalence at six to eight weeks and completion of evidence-based parenting programmes. The trial was due to ‘help the government and local authorities develop a final set of measures so payment by results can be rolled out nationally from 2013-14’. The first nine trial areas were announced in July 2011 and a further 18 in September 2011

In March, the Department for Education told local authorities that the trial had been ended, the scheme would not be rolled out and an evaluation report by Frontier Economics would be published in the early summer 2013.

A report on Children’s Centres by the right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange last month found widespread skepticism about how effective the scheme had been and pointed out that while it supported the principle, centres were being asked to ‘run before they could walk’.

“A clear and consistent set of data is an absolute pre-requisite, before any kind of move towards judgement based on outcomes, or before the introduction of a payment by results scheme.”

The DfE press officer said that the government had decided to leave payment by restults in early years up to individual local authorities: “It was always our intention to end the initial trials in March 2013. Local authorities are responsible for improving outcomes for their most disadvantaged children in a way that is responsive to the needs and demands of their community.

"It is preferable to give local authorities the freedom to consider the benefits of pursuing payment by results in children’s centres through their own local schemes.”

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