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Ofsted summary report published

They would say that wouldn’t they “Somerset County Council has welcomed constructive feedback in the latest Ofsted inspections of its work for children and young people and says it will make urgent improvements where necessary.” However we can only say that Ofsted has been issuing similar advice to the county council for the last 2 years and more. Its no use “welcoming constructive feedback” if you don’t actually do something. Alas “welcoming constructive feedback” is so much easier. As is often the case with these things, press resources and spinning can make even the ugliest duckling into a swan. It is not all bad news, there is some sign of improvement.

I think most readers will get a better impression from the Ofsted summary than they will from the County Council press release – so without further apology here is what Ofsted had to say:

 Vulnerable children and families in Somerset are not well served

Today sees the outcome of Ofsted’s first multi-remit focused inspection carried out in the Somerset area.

It finds that while education standards are improving, the county council is not providing good enough support for its most vulnerable children, young people and families. As a result too many of the services inspected were judged inadequate.

In the four children’s homes inspected none were judged good or better. In addition, two children’s centres, running 10 stand-alone sites, and serving over 13,500 children under five years old living in the centres’ catchment area were judged inadequate.

Thirty-nine inspections were carried out across all children’s services remits in Somerset between 8 September and 3 October. The inspections included primary, secondary, special and independent special schools, pupil referral units, children’s homes, children’s centres and nurseries.

The outcomes of the 39 inspections were:

A third were judged less than good

Six settings were judged inadequate

A fifth of schools inspected were judged require improvement

No maintained schools were judged inadequate.

Bradley Simmons, Ofsted’s Regional Director for the South West said:

“Bringing together this series of inspections for the first time has given a unique insight into the quality of services children in Somerset receive. The council deserves credit for its role in improving the performance for primary and secondary children from both disadvantaged backgrounds and the most able students. However, it is disheartening to see that the most vulnerable children, young people and families who rely on crucial services for care and support are being let down. It cannot be right that children’s centres serving over 13,500 children under five years old living in the centres’ catchment area are receiving a poor service. Urgent action is required if the council is to secure timely and effective arrangements for the safety and wellbeing of children living in the county.”

 Strengths

The majority of pupils going to primary and secondary schools that were inspected achieved well in all key stages. The authority’s effective brokering of school-to-school support through the Local and National Leaders in Education initiative has been particularly successful in the primary schools inspected.

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and those in care are making improved progress in their education. As a result the gaps between the attainment and progress of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers have narrowed.

In the further education college inspected, the majority of young people whose starting points were low catch up with their peers because they receive particularly good support and their progress is monitored closely. This has led to them gaining qualifications and employment.

 Areas for improvement

The local authority has failed to take timely action in children’s homes to ensure that the service improves. As a result it does not provide children and young people living in the homes with a consistently good quality of care.

The safety and welfare arrangements of the most vulnerable children and families in children’s centres are inadequate. This is due to the council’s lack of support where there are safeguarding concerns or the need for early intervention.

Support and advice to schools about safeguarding and child protection concerns are insufficient and the authority has been slow to act on improving this service.

Recommendations

Somerset County Council needs to improve the consistency and quality of care of its children’s homes through clearer strategic direction and management oversight.

The council needs secure arrangements for the safety and welfare of all children living in the county by:

Providing timely intervention and effective support where there are safeguarding concerns and,

Increasing support and advice on safeguarding and child protection for headteachers.

It is important to read everything Ofsted have said not just the headlines. There are some good things happening here too and the situation is starting to get better. So as I say not all bad news, but what a shambles it has been. I personally wonder why Somerset County Council are not looking to the former Head of Children’s services for a refund.

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