About the evaluation
The robust evaluation of A Better Start will run throughout the 10-year period of the programme.

Implementation

During the setup of the programme, evaluators have been working alongside the A Better Start areas to ensure that their models of delivery are functioning optimally and to maximise the future effectiveness of the programme.

Two reports have been published that summarise the implementation of the programme so far. The first looks at the process by which grant funding was awarded to the five winning sites, while the second looks in detail at the set-up phase for these grant winners.

 

“Our formative evaluation of the implementation of A Better Start across the five areas … indicates that all the steps expected of quality implementation have been visited at least once. This bodes well for the strength of the foundations built during these stages for A Better Start.”

Implementation Evaluation Report 2.

The implementation team will continue to collect wide-ranging quantitative and qualitative data about the programme’s implementation systems in order to get a better understanding about the effectiveness of the different models of working adopted by the five areas.

Impact

Groups of families in each of the five areas (Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham, Southend-on-Sea) are being tracked and compared with similar families in 15 carefully selected comparison areas. This will tell us about the level of impact that A Better Start has had on families in the programme areas. We will look at short, medium and long term changes experienced by individuals (parents and children) in the three key A Better Start outcomes. These are:

  • Social and emotional health

  • Diet and nutrition

  • Communication, speech and language

We will use a large scale survey – the You and Your Child survey – to collect most of this data.

In addition to the survey data on individuals, we will be able to use publicly available data to observe any changes in outcomes that happen at a population-level in the A Better Start areas.

There are several small subgroups being studied alongside this largescale work. For example, biometric (laboratory) data is being collected for a small group of children, and some parent-infant interactions are being studied in the home learning environment.

Once we have gathered information on the outcomes of the programme, we can begin to develop an idea of the cost-effectiveness of the programme. This will feed into an economic evaluation of A Better Start (see below).

The full ‘protocol’ for the impact evaluation can be found here. For more information on the progress of the evaluation, its findings and any upcoming events, please sign up for our newsletter.

Economic impact

The LSE are using their model of ‘Preventonomics’ to provisionally assess the economic impact of the A Better Start programme, using early data from the impact evaluation and other public data sources.

You can read more about the Preventonomics approach here and discover the Preventonomics calculator and guidance on the PSSRU website.

This will followed by a full prospectively-conducted economic evaluation of the A Better Start programme, using individual level data on costs and outcomes collected on all study families. The economic evaluation will be led by Professor Stavros Petrou, based at the University of Warwick.

 

The team

Experts have come together from a number of universities and research organisations, bringing subject and methodological expertise to successfully study A Better Start and communicate their findings.

You can see who is in the evaluation team here.