Merged children's centres marked down by Ofsted

Be the first to comment

Merged children's centres fare significantly worse in their Ofsted inspections than individual centres, the latest statistics show.

stepping-stones-cc

Stepping Stones Children's Centre in Greater Manchester is part of a cluster that was graded inadequate last summer

There has also been a rise in the number of all children’s centres judged as requiring improvement or inadequate.

The children’s centre figures reveal the results of individual and group inspections since Ofsted changed the way it inspected centres by bringing in a new inspections framework in April last year.

An increasing number of children’s centres are now operating as ‘hubs’ or ‘cluster’ groups as local authorities merge centre management to save on running costs.

Ofsted said that the new framework ‘distinguishes between groups of centres that share leadership and management and work together to deliver integrated services, and single centres.'

The figures show that those children’s centres operating as a group are doing less well than individual centres, with no group centres judged outstanding since the new inspections framework was introduced in April 2013.

The children’s centre statistics show that Ofsted inspected 128 ‘single’ children’s centres and 40 inspections of group centres between 1 April and 31 October 2013.

The data provides a picture of the quality of 235 children’s centres.

Of the 40 groups inspected 26 (64 per cent) were judged as requires improvement and five (13 per cent) graded inadequate. Only nine groups (23 per cent) were rated as good and none were found to be outstanding.

In comparison, 61 per cent of single centres were judged to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

Overall 38 per cent of children’s centres were judged as requiring improvement during the seven month reporting period.

Ofsted has so far inspected 1,920 children’s centres, 63 per cent of all children’s centres in England.

There has been a slight drop in the number of centres judged good or outstanding to the end of the most recent reporting period.

However, as it has not yet completed a whole inspection cycle of children’s centres, ‘it is not possible to state the quality of the centres has declined nationally,’ Ofsted said.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘With half of all children’s centres now working in a group arrangement, it’s very worrying to note such a stark variation in quality between centre groups and single centres. Given the growing financial pressures on this sector, we are very likely to see formation of many more group centres in the near future, and so it’s vital that Ofsted provides the necessary support for such centres to ensure the families using these provisions are receiving a good quality of service.’