In its first inspection since being brought together under shared leadership and management in 2012, Northumberland-Blyth Valley children’s centre group has been criticised by Ofsted for not providing enough places for disadvantaged two-year-olds or linking with other providers.
The group, managed by the charity Barnardo's on behalf of Northumberland County Council, is made up of Blyth Central, Blyth West, Cramlington East, Cramlington West and Seaton Valley Children’s Centre, along with Colgate Cottage, a community venue used to deliver services.
The report says that the group, which serves communities in areas of high deprivation and unemployment, is failing to use local authority data and information to plan services and identify at risk and hard-to-reach families.
it also says that services are not evaluated effectively or accurately to determine whether activities provided by the centres are making a positive difference to the lives of children and families.
The report states, ‘Numerous descriptive rather than evaluative reports and plans are produced, but taken collectively these are unreliable, especially when compared to each other. This is because they very often contain contradictory information and data.’
While inspectors acknowledge recent changes by the local authority to its performance monitoring strategies of children’s centres, they claim that these are not yet embedded in the Blythe Valley group.
Daljit Lally, executive director of well-being and community health services at Northumberland County Council, said, ‘We have developed a new performance management system over the last 12 months and we have proactively been working with Barnardo's to support them.’
Jean Hedley, locality Manager at Barnardo’s, said, 'Barnardo’s, advisory board members, parents and Northumberland County Council as commissioners, are extremely disappointed at this outcome.
'Many positives and strengths were identified during the inspection including: robust safeguarding; an excellent range of appropriate services offered which were clearly valued by families; well-resourced centres and community outreach provision; a good range of universal and targeted support including parenting/family support, learning and volunteering opportunities.
'This children’s centre group inspection does not alter the existing grades for childcare within the Centres. These have been separately inspected and judged to be good at Blyth West Nursery and Pre-school and outstanding at Blyth Central Pre-school.
'As a result of this grading the centres will be re-inspected within the year. Barnardo’s North East and the local authority have an action plan in place which will take forward changes required to address the recommendations.
'Service delivery within the centres will continue and we will always keep children and families at the heart of what we do, ensuring the views and opinions of parents and carers are listened to, in helping us to move forward.'
This week, Nursery World also reported that a group of children's centres in Somerset had been found to be inadeqate by Ofsted.