The Children’s Plan was launched by Ed Balls in December 2007, but what are the government’s objectives for this initiative?

The Children’s Plan sets out the government’s strategy for improving the wellbeing, health and opportunities available to children and young people in England.

The stated aim of the Children’s Plan is to put the needs of families, children and young people at the heart of government policy by ‘strengthening support for all families during the formative early years of their children’s lives, taking the next steps in achieving world-class schools and an excellent education for every child, involving parents more fully in their children’s learning, helping to make sure that young people have interesting and exciting things to do outside of school, and providing more places for children to play safely.’

The five principles which underpin the Children’s Plan are:

  • Parents, not the government, bring up children, so the government needs to do more to back parents and families.
  • All children have the potential to succeed and should go as far as their talents can take them.
  • Children and young people need to enjoy childhood as well as grow up prepared for adult life.
  • Services need to be shaped by, and responsive to, children, young people and families, and not designed around professional boundaries.
  • It is always better to prevent failure than tackle a crisis later.

To support these principles the strategic objectives affecting children under five which will be addressed over the next 10 years are:

1. Securing the wellbeing and health of children and young people
Among the initiatives to help achieve this will be the:

  • allocation of £34m over three years to provide two parenting advisers in every local authority
  • development for parents of a personal progress record on their child’s development from early years to primary school
  • creation of a new Parent Panel to
  • advise government on policies affecting parents
  • improvement of outreach services from Sure Start children’s centres
  • strengthening of intensive support for the neediest families through a key worker approach
  • investment of £90m capital over three years to improve facilities for disabled children to take short breaks
  • provision of £225m funding to every local authority to enable 3,500 playgrounds to be rebuilt or renewed and made accessible to children with disabilities
  • production, by spring 2008, of a Child Health Strategy to improve children’s physical and mental health
  • publication of a housing action plan and the prioritisation of children’s needs in housing decisions.

2. Safeguarding the young and vulnerable
To help families strike the right balance between keeping children safe and allowing them the freedom they need, the government plans to:

  • publish a review of the potential risks posed by the internet and video games
  • commission an independent review of the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing
  • provide £18m over three years to fund a Home Safety Equipment scheme
  • introduce more 20mph restriction zones
  • encourage children to take risks while staying safe by publishing a Staying Safe Action Plan and ensuring schools and local authorities take a proportionate approach to health and safety.

3. Individual progress to achieve world class standards and close the gap in educational achievement for disadvantaged children
To support early learning as the foundation for future achievement the government will:

  • spend £30m over three years to provide more family learning initiatives
  • invest £100m over three years to provide 20,000 two-year-olds in the most disadvantaged communities up to 15 hours free early education and childcare a week
  • commission a review of the primary curriculum by Sir Jim Rose
  • ensure a smooth transition from play-based learning in the early years into primary school
  • improve the quality of teaching for children with special educational needs.

4. System reform to achieve world-class standards and close the gap in educational achievement for disadvantaged children
To support the contribution which high-quality early years childcare and education make to improving children’s achievement it is planned to:

  • invest £117m over three years to fund supply cover to enable early years workers to take part in continuing professional development and to boost the Graduate Leader Fund so every full daycare setting will be led by a graduate by 2015, with two graduates per setting in disadvantaged areas
  • allocate £44m over three years to make teaching a Master’s level profession for new entrants.

Two final strategic objectives set out in the Children’s Plan specifically relate to targets for young people. These are: ‘Ensuring that young people are participating and achieving their potential to 18 and beyond’ and ‘Keeping children and young people on the path to success.’

Early years professionals in all sectors will welcome the proposals set out in the Children’s Plan, recognising as they do the importance of workforce development to support high-quality provision for children under five and the key role which parents play in supporting their children’s learning and development.

At the end of the Children’s Plan there is a set of proposed goals to be achieved by 2020. These include:

  • enhancing children and young people’s wellbeing, especially at key transition points in their lives
  • improving child health, with the proportion of obese and overweight children reduced to 2000 levels
  • halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating it by 2020
  • ensuring every child is ready for success at school, with at least 90% developing well across all areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile by age 5.

The government proposes to consult widely over the coming year to ascertain whether this goal represents the right national ambition. Practitioners are encouraged to contribute to these consultations to ensure that they are comfortable that the ‘end justifies the means.’

The DCSF has copies of the Children’s Plan and the executive summary.