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Mind the gap

This week's report from the End Child Poverty coalition of charities shows that the attainment gap between rich and poor children begins before they reach toddlerhood, and widens as they get older. The Government's family policies are bringing together the right sort of "joined-up thinking" to make a difference. Its Sure Start programme supports children from conception to 14, and is investing in "wrap-around" early childhood centres in deprived areas, linking health, welfare and high-quality education.

Findings from the comprehensive Effective Provision of Pre-School Education research project back up the Government's early-years policies (see page 11). They show conclusively that high-quality early education does make a difference, particularly for poor children. Integrated centres and dedicated state nursery schools tend to be the most effective.

Nevertheless, local authorities continue to see closing nursery schools as a reasonable way to save money. So thinking is still not joined up enough.

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