Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Toddlers or students: where to invest?
Today's Times bemoans the Government's protection of Sure Start spending on children's centres at a time when university spending is being cut. It also complains that spending on the under-5s has risen more rapidly under Labour than that on higher education. It questions whether this is the right prioritisation to achieve social mobility. Of course, there may be more that Sure Start can do to improve outcomes, though recent evaluations have been better than earlier ones, but the answer is most definitely Yes. All the evidence suggests that inequalities set in before the age of five. Unless they are addressed at that stage - including through effective social skills and reading programmes - the chance of improving mobility later are greatly reduced. The universities should have access to higher fees, but it is absurd to suggest they should have a greater call on limited resources over early years education.