Sure Start children's centres: local authorities' duties

What local authorities need to know about running Sure Start children's centres.

The core purpose of Sure Start children’s centres is to improve outcomes for young children and their families, with a particular focus on those in greatest need. They work to make sure all children are properly prepared for school, regardless of background or family circumstances. They also offer support to parents.

More detail about what children’s centres can do to achieve the core purpose can be found on the Foundation Years website.

Statutory guidance

The Childcare Act 2006 is the legislation that regulates childcare in England. The act requires local authorities to play an important strategic role in the provision of childcare in their area and to carry out a number of duties.

In order to support local authorities to meet the duties set out in the Childcare Act 2006, we published updated statutory guidance on Sure Start children’s centres in April 2013. Local authorities must follow this statutory guidance when carrying out their legal functions relating to children’s centres.

The updated guidance replaces the previous Sure Start children’s centres statutory guidance published in October 2010. It:

  • clarifies what local authorities are required to do by law
  • concentrates on improving outcomes for children
  • clarifies the legal duty on local authorities to make sure there are enough children’s centres in their area, accessible to all families
  • explains local authorities’ responsibility to carry out interventions for those families in greatest need of support
  • encourages organisations with a proven track record of supporting families to get more involved with Sure Start centres

View the statutory guidance for Sure Start children’s centres.

Sure Start On database

The Sure Start On database collects nationwide information on Sure Start children’s centres. Local authorities are responsible for regularly updating the Sure Start On database to reflect any changes to their provision.

The database is also a source of information for parents wishing to learn more about children’s centres in their area. The information in the database is fed to GOV.UK so parents can access it. Children’s centres that are not recorded on the database will not be listed on GOV.UK.

To request access to the database or to get help with any query related to the database, please email the Sure Start On database helpdesk.

More information on the database is available from the Sure Start children’s centres statutory guidance and detailed user guidance is found on the database itself.

Contact details

Sure Start On database helpdesk

Branding of Sure Start children’s centres

The term ‘Sure Start children’s centres’ should continue to be used on all signage for children’s centres due to its high recognition and positive perceptions among users.

Branding logos and guidance are available.

Good practice examples

You can access good practice examples about language and communication development and about outdoor play from the Foundation Years website.

If you would like to share your own best practice examples with other centres and local authorities, please follow the instructions in the Foundation Years website.


We are able to support local authorities with policy queries on children’s centres, although we are not in a position to provide detailed improvement support.

If you have any queries regarding policy, please email the department’s Early years team.

Contact details