News Analysis: First centres in deprived areas have more outstanding inspections

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The first Sure Start children's centres to have been set up in the most deprived areas of England were found this week to have a higher proportion of outstanding Ofsted grades than those set up later in the programme.

Figures from Ofsted's annual report show that of the 463 phase 1 centresinspected last year, 17 per cent were outstanding and 62 per cent weregood. Just one per cent were judged inadequate.

A much lower rate of outstanding and good provision was found in phasetwo centres - 9 per cent were outstanding, 54 per cent were good, and 3per cent were deemed inadequate.

One example of an outstanding centre is Bowthorpe, West Earlham andCostessey Children's Centre in Norwich. It is run by Norfolk CommunityHealth and Care NHS Trust and all staff, including the nursery (ratedgood with outstanding elements), are employed by the Trust.

Bowthorpe is one of the 15 per cent most deprived wards in the country.The centre covers an area with high levels of lone parents, teenageparents and families dependent on benefits or on very low incomes.

Designated a phase 1 children's centre in 2005, it has expanded duringphases 2 and 3, and now reaches 2,000 children.

Centre leader Sian Larrington said that one of the main reasons for thecentre's success is 'the universal provision of health services, butalso the capacity to really target services. We have a fantastic teamwho develop relationships with families. The other element is that thewhole management structure is so integrated in health.'

The centre has a team of health visitors, midwives, community nurserynurses, speech and language therapists and family support workers, andholds health records of every child born in the ward. This meansidentification of families that need support can start early and thecentre can offer targeted support for every family.

The centre shares health records with one local GP practice and deliversservices alongside a GP immunisation clinic.

Ms Larrington added, 'We're very embedded in the community because weare health-led, and a lot of people have been introduced to the centrethrough a health visitor or a midwife.'

New families with young children are seen by a health visitor and everybaby is offered baby massage to support parent-child relationships.

'Every worker is an outreach worker,' said Ms Larrington.

The majority of places are sessional. Around half of the 42 places arethe two-year-old offer. Ms Larrington said, 'We're registered to takebabies, but we're taking more two-year-olds to meet local need. Therehas been a sustained uptake (of two-year-old places) and impact goinginto school, a lot of it because the two-year-old scheme is part of apackage of support. It's not just an offer of a place.'

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