Author: Carl Bagley
Institution: School of Education, Durham University
Full reference: Bagley, C. (2011) ‘From Sure Start to Children’s Centres: capturing the erosion of social capital.’ Journal of Education Policy 28(1): 95 – 113
The research reported in this article relates to the UK Labour government’s policy commitment to building social capital through an early years health and education initiative known as Sure Start in socially disadvantaged communities. The article examines the concept of social capital and discusses social justice and welfare reform policies concerned with building social capital. It reports data from a three-year ethnographic study into the experiences of parents and a multi-agency team of professionals striving to transform social capital-informed policy rhetoric into practice through a Sure Start programme.
The author explains that research from earlier years of the study had revealed the building of social capital. In the final year of the study, following a major policy change proposing to incorporate the Sure Start programme into a more inclusive and wider Children’s Centres initiative, the social capital engendered was found to be in danger of erosion. The article highlights the shifting dimensions of power at national, local and team levels informing this process of erosion, to suggest that social capital may be destroyed much more readily than it can be built. The author concludes that if the generation of social capital is to be perceived as valuable and important, then the prerequisite for any policy development or shift should be the identification and maintenance of social capital already developed.
The ethnographic research was undertaken over a three-year period. The data were collected through documentation, attendance and observation at meetings, and a total of 126 semi-structured interviews with parents (50 interviews), multi-agency team professionals (61 interviews) and local authority managers (14 interviews).