Children's centre cluster rated inadequate

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A children’s centre group in East Reading has been rated inadequate by Ofsted in its first inspection since the centres were amalgamated.

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East Reading Children's Centre group was rated inadequate by Ofsted last month

The East Reading Children’s Centre Group, made up of three centres - Katesgrove, Reading Hamilton Road and East Reading, was inspected by Ofsted 18 months after the centres were joined together. A new staff structure was implemented in October 2013.

Katesgrove Children’s Centre is the ‘hub’ for the group and open from 9am-5pm during the week, while the other two centres are open for specific activities only.

The group is one of five ‘cluster groups’ throughout Reading, formed following a review by Reading Borough Council last year into the way it operated its 13 children’s centres.

Ofsted inspected the East Reading Children’s Centre Group in December, under the new inspection framework, and found that too few families in need access the centres.

Inspectors raised concerns that centre leaders do not routinely receive or seek information from the local authority or key partners to help them target services to support families who may benefit the most. According to the report, the children’s centres do not receive information on new births or vulnerable two-year-olds held by the local authority.

The report also says that the children’s centre group does not provide enough places for eligible two-year-olds to take up their free entitlement to early education and not enough is done to encourage more children to take up a nursery place.

It goes on to say that, ‘Senior leaders do not monitor the centres’ work with sufficient rigour’. This means that it is not possible to measure whether what the settings have to offer is making a difference to the lives of children and families.

Following the inspection outcome, Reading Borough Council has put together a ‘detailed action plan’ to address the issued raised by Ofsted and to 'drive-up performance' and encourage more families to visit the centres.

Jan Gavin, lead councillor for children’s services at Reading Borough Council, said, ‘The results of this inspection are disappointing and there is no doubt more needs to be done to get more families and children through the door at our children’s centres. The activities and help available for parents and children at the centres is invaluable but more families need to benefit from these services.

‘A robust action plan is being put in place to address the areas of concern highlighted and that will be closely monitored. The council has access to information on live birth data and vulnerable children and that information needs to be put to good use by making direct contact with those families not accessing services and finding out why that is.

‘This action plan runs in parallel with the on-going review of all the council’s early help offer, from universal services available to every child in Reading and more specialist support services aimed at supporting children, young people and families who may be vulnerable. This council remains fully committed to providing support for the people in our community who need it most.’

East Reading Children’s Centre Group is one of a number of merged centres to be rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2013.

According to data from Ofsted’s Children’s centre inspections and outcomes, published last September, 20 per cent of children’s centres managed as clusters, or as ‘hub and spoke’ models, were rated inadequate between 1 April -30 June 2013, the first three months of the new inspection framework. A further 70 cent were rated as ‘requires improvement’ during the same period.