|Leadership in Early Childhood Education: Cross-cultural perspectives|
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The UK government has made social exclusion a central issue that dominates all current social policy. However, as represented by the policy documents of the UK government, social exclusion is sliding signifier, although there does seem to be one common theme, summarised by Power and Wilson (2000, 1) thus:
“Social exclusion is about the inability of our society to keep all groups and individuals within reach of what we expect as a society”
Groups and individuals that are not “within reach” are characterised as being mainly located within urban environments, and strategies for renewing parts of cities are central to the government’s strategy to promote social inclusion. However, within the current rhetoric, the need for inclusion for all groups within society is to bring economic prosperity and to ensure that all members of society have an equal opportunity to realise their full potential (DfEE 2000, Social Exclusion Unit 1998, 1999, 2000a, 2000b). The means to accomplish this is to revive local economies through ensuring better service provision and by promoting leadership in communities and organisations, and businesses and agencies working in partnership. This strategy will, in turn, revive communities, and promote the social inclusion of individuals within those community (Social Exclusion Unit 2000b). It is the government’s responsibility to provide the necessary national and local frameworks for interventions and programmes but these are to be implemented within neighbourhoods and communities. According to the documents, failures in the past to promote inclusion and equality have been the result of structural weaknesses and the lack of a coherent national approach, meaning that services have often worked in parallel, not in a ‘joined-up’ way (Social Exclusion Unit 2000b). The tenets of ‘joined-up’ services and organisations, agencies and local businesses working in partnership are central to the development of the government’s social policies. It is seen as necessary to target very young children and their families to prevent these problems arising in the first place. This imperative is based on a body of research evidence that suggests early interventions are the most successful (for example Schweinhart & Weikart 1997).