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Narrowing the Gap is a two-year project which is funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), hosted by the LGA and supported by the Improvement and Development Agency for local government (IDeA).
Its overriding purpose is ambitious: to make a significant difference, on a national scale, to the performance of Children's Trusts in narrowing the gap in outcomes between vulnerable and excluded children and the rest, against a context of improving outcomes for all. The focus of the project is on 3–13s but with some consideration of the issues for under-3s and for 14–19s.
The term ‘gap', in this context, means the difference in outcomes for a specific group and outcomes for the whole range of children and young people of which the group forms a part. This project in particular is concerned with improving outcomes for vulnerable children and those who are most at risk, with a view to reducing the differences in outcomes between these groups and children and young people as a whole – whilst improving outcomes for all. The outcomes we mean are those identified in Every Child Matters: being healthy; staying safe; enjoying and achieving; making a positive contribution; and achieving economic well-being.
We know from practice and research that some groups of children are more likely to fall behind than others: these are set out below and have helped form the framework for the project. Many children belong to more than one of the groups, of course, and, for most, the gap is in more than one outcome:
The project has five themes (or key lines of enquiry. These themes were chosen as convenient ways to look at the complex set of issues that arise in this area and were chosen for their clear policy and practice significance. We are looking at the first three in year one: July 2007-June 2008, the other other two in year two: July 2008 – June 2009.
There are many excellent research projects and improvement programmes underway in children's
services at present, but Narrowing the Gap's approach is distinctive in three respects: