OFSTED - Children's Centre Inspection update

A significant number of inspections have taken place under the new framework - what are the key findings?
As the number of published inspection reports increases, so too can our learning from the inspection process.

To date there have been 5 outstanding Children’s Centres - congratulations to them. The remaining Centres have achieved a mixture of good, requires improvement and unfortunately inadequate.

We have yet to see an outstanding group inspection and the vast majority of groups fall into the requires improvement category. This leads us to believe that one good Centre in a group can not pull the group up to good, but one weak Centre can pull a group down. It also indicates that the group model has to be secure and there can be no weak links within it.

From detailed analysis of the OFSTED reports for Centres deemed to be inadequate or requiring improvement the key issues arising are:

  • Insufficient reach - both from universal and target groups. There needs to be a minimum reach of 65% to meet the grade descriptors for good.
  • Insufficient adult employment and training opportunities - it’s not just about having a link with JCP, but is also about ensuring that you provide support and access to courses. Where you don’t deliver these yourself, you need to ensure that robust SLA’s are in place to facilitate data sharing and ensure that you know how many adults are completing courses and what happens after they have finished.
  • Poor use of data - Data is integral to the inspection process (it always should have been, but is now embedded more than ever). You need to know data at a local level, reach area and LSOA level to enable you to analyse data and ensure you know who your target groups are and what the local needs are. There are now only a couple of core pieces of data (we are thankfully no longer measured on our success based on a reduction in accident and emergency admission rates as standard) EFYSP scores and worklessness / unemployment. You will also have to evidence changes in data linked to the health targets in your area.
  • Poor tracking of children and families - Centres are expected to track children and families and be able to evidence the impact and outcomes of their work over a longer timeframe.
  • Advisory Board - on the whole advisory boards are coming over as a weakness. This was identified under the original framework, again under the revised framework and more so under this third framework. Your advisory board must be seen as a board of governors - try visiting a good local school to find out how their governance operates and seek to emulate this. Involve the advisory board in planning, analysis of data and developing services. It may help to try and separate your thinking: Advisory Board = Governance, Partnership Board = sharing practice and talking about how you can work together.
  • Insufficient support and challenge from the local authority - This is coming over as a real weakness and the LA’s role in the Centre is scrutinised much more thoroughly, You need to have robust annual performance management / conversations, clear targets / KPIs and support to challenge and develop your practice.
  • Low numbers of parents involved in Centre development - you may have an excellent parents forum, but if those 6 parents are the only ones who contribute to centre development it's no longer sufficient. You need to find ways to get others involved and ensure that the vast majority of service users, are able to and know that they are, contributing to centre development.

Whilst it may seem like a challenging task we know that we are able to change and adapt (Children’s Centres have evolved significantly since their first implementation) and we must hold on to the fact that good is an achievable outcome with a little thought and preparation.
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