Sure Start Children Centre’s, consultation figures completely floored?

I attended my local Children’s Centre consultation event, and was completely flabbergasted by what surely must be one of the most audacious missuses of figures ever attempted. Even for RMBC this was ambitious.

My concerns fall into three areas.

1) Credibility of Statistics.

We were informed that the decision as to which centres would close was based on an index of deprivation and poverty of children under 5. We were then told that Aughton Early Years Centre (which is staying open) had 411 children in that category, but then we were told that neighbouring Kiveton and Wales apparrently has no children whatsoever in that category. Anyone who knows anything about these two communities knows this is quite literally ‘ incredible ‘. Socioeconomically these two communities must be nearly identical.

2) Irrelevance of statistics

We were then informed that the statistics being used for the consultation were (unbelievably) from 2010. that means not only were they out of date but utterly useless, as these stats pertain to children under 5, for them to be 4 years out of date, means that the vast majority of the children classed as living in deprivation are no longer in that age range anyway. By the time the centres close next year, none of those children will be under 5. Why not simply use the 2013 or at least the 2012 stats ? (I know from speaking to professionals these annual stats exist) and if the argument is, that there’d be no significant difference anyway, then simply publish them and base the consultation on those stats. let me hazard a guess though this won’t happen.

3)Why was a single set of statistics used ?

We need to see the whole picture. Alongside stats on deprivation we need to see stats on, how many families are being served that have suffered post natal depression, that shows how many children are being served that have delayed development or disabilities, that shows how many children using the centres are fostered or adopted, and then we need to see how effective the centres are in meeting needs and delivering these services. Why would you not base such crucial decisions on a truly holistic picture ?

This consultation is not on a sound basis whatsoever, and it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the outcome isn’t being engineered. The old adage comes to mind, that “there are lies, damn lies and statistics”


13 thoughts on “Sure Start Children Centre’s, consultation figures completely floored?

  1. We had the same presentation at Dinnington I challenged the figures as did others and some of the mothers asked why just use deprived when the whole community use it. We should also not lose sight of the fact that some parents pay for the use of these centres. It also became clear that our centre is oversubscribed and has a waiting list but usage is not taken into account. This whole consultation is a sham in the same way as the green belt one was.
    Dave Smith


  2. No surprise that Aughton is in Holderness ward – Gerald Smith will no doubt claim the kudos for keeping Aughton Centre open.


  3. I would agree that the catchment area for the Aughton Centre is no more needy than that of the Kiverton/Wales Centre, and I can’t understand the decision either. I agree with Dave – it is a sham consultation. I certainly could never defend Aughton keeping its Centre, while Wales doesn’t.
    (I live in Rother Vale, where R. Russell is up for election this year – and we’re in the Aughton catchment area.)
    With regard to Skywalker’s points about the statistics:
    Whilst such “social” statistics are just not my area; as far as I can see the 2010 national figures are the most recently published – but that is not to say that there are not more recent data, and this would suggest that there maybe: )
    The argument based on the kids of 2010 now being outside the age range now, isn’t relevant – the relative percentages will remain fairly consistent over such a brief period of years, and in any case it is the household that is being measured surely, not each individual child? Even if the data is collected annually, it does not mean that it is immediately analysed – it could be just shipped off to National Government.
    Do Local Authorities employ competent statisticians who could analyse the raw data? Certainly not in my experience.
    Whilst one can always argue that “other factors need to be included”; the possible list of other factors is near endless. Statisticians work with what they’ve got/ can get, and that often involves using proxy data.
    I would suggest that anyone whose mind focusses on “lies, damn lies and statistics” hasn’t read:

    How to Lie with Statistics (Penguin Business)

    (Written in 1954, it’s still the best introduction to the subject).
    The national databook can be found here:
    … And this is a good easy-read introduction to it:


    • I do think that “We were then told that Aughton Early Years Centre (which is staying open) had 411 children in that category, but then we were told that neighbouring Kiveton and Wales apparrently has no children whatsoever in that category.” sounds really odd.
      If I can find time, I’ll try and work out what the 2010 government figures actually say (but it’s going to be a lot of work!)


  4. If we are arguing about the criteria used for selecting centres for closure then we are wasting our energy. We shouldn’t be arguing for one centre to stay open at the expense of another as this will merely result in us being divided and therefore conquered. The government really has won if the residents of Kiveton are fighting against Aston cum Aughton over the scraps from a rich man’s table.

    Yes, the data is dodgy and we could argue that the number of kids that fall into the (super output area) category is less relevant than the percentage of the local population that this represents.

    Children’s centres aren’t located in affluent areas so should we really be arguing as to whether one centre is more deprived than another? Rotherham is a deprived area and needs ALL its children’s centres. I would rather see our energy directed towards keeping them all open.


    • Robin, I totally agree!
      If we can’t give ALL our kids a decent start; we are not decent.
      I know this is a completely different issue; but if it is true that (and I don’t doubt that it was) “We were then told that Aughton Early Years Centre (which is staying open) had 411 children in that category, but then we were told that neighbouring Kiveton and Wales apparently has no children whatsoever in that category” something has gone fundamentally wrong somewhere along the line – does one of them have an entry policy as selective as Eton?


  5. Robin, my intention is not to argue one centre should stay open at expense of another, but merely to demonstrate how skewed the figures are that are being used here. I think there needs to be a fundamental rethink of this policy full stop.


  6. Dave, I agree, however, Deputy Leader Ahktar has the Labour Cabinet under his total control, Roger is yesterdays man.
    Sure Start and what it stands for has no place on the Ahktar agenda.


  7. Hmmm…I’m not sure about that. Sure Start (and what it stands for) was a Labour initiative (however much some posters on here may not want to accept it).


  8. Sure Start was indeed the product of Labour, it gave the white underclass (a term featured on Cllr Akhtar`s social media accounts not mine) a real opportunity to develop the skills and ability to tackle poor health and lifestyles.
    The Tories spell the death knell for the programme.
    As for Rotherham we see on Cllr Akhtars social media sites his use of the derogative term the white underclass as a way of attacking UKIP then we must assume Sure Start has no part in his agenda when he becomes Leader of RMBC.


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