An Evaluation of a Sure Start Programme (Round 4) -Leam Lane Area, Gateshead

From March 2003 to March 2006
Project Leader(s): Jill Clark
Staff: Elaine Hall, Caroline McCaughey and Maria Mroz
Contact: Jill Clark
Sponsors: Gateshead City Council


The research project was funded by Gateshead City Council, and ran from February 2003 – March 31st 2006. The research team, led by Jill Clark, consists of Elaine Hall, Caroline McCaughey and Maria Mroz from the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching.

The evaluation aims to:

• Monitor the progress of the Sure Start Partnership in achieving its key objectives and targets.

• Review the work practices through which Sure Start is being delivered. • Assess whether the services being provided achieve good value.

• Assess whether the Sure Start programme is:

• Adding value to existing services. •

 Involving parents, grandparents and other carers.

• Providing links and support to services for older children.

• Promoting participation of local families in the design and working of the programme.

Research Paradigm

Evaluation is a methodological area that is closely related to, but distinguishable from, more traditional social research, and utilises many of the same methodologies used in traditional social research. However, because evaluation takes place within a political and organisational context, it requires group skills, management ability, political dexterity, sensitivity to multiple stakeholders and other skills that social research in general does not rely on as much. We have adopted a formative evaluation approach, with the aim to strengthen or improve delivery by examining the delivery of the programme, the quality of its implementation, and the assessment of the organisational context, personnel, procedures and inputs.

Research Methodology

The evaluation strategies we have adopted in this research project are essentially qualitative and emphasise the need to retain the phenomenological quality of the evaluation context, and the value of subjective human interpretation in the evaluation process. With this in mind, data collection and analysis take the following forms:

• Literature Review This will survey scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) relevant to Sure Start and similar community-based interventions, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on the topic.

• Documentary Analysis Documentation will include (but are not restricted to) funding applications; review documentation, monitoring and target-setting data; outcome measures; start-point and budget data.

• Project Case studies We aim to conduct in-depth case studies of a number of projects involved with or related to the Sure Start programme, and project case studies will be selected for study to reflect differing patterns of intervention, anticipated outcomes and key players (individual or agency). The project case studies will use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods. The quantitative data will relate to numbers and characteristics of project participants, costs, timescales and outcomes. Qualitative data will relate to processes within the projects, and such data will be generated from interviews, focus group discussions, observation and documentary analysis.


Dr Jill Clark
Senior Research Associate and Business Development Director for the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching

Maria Mroz