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A third of children’s centres ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’

More than a third of children’s centres in England have been rated either as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted. 

Ofsted’s ‘Children’s centre inspection outcomes, January to March 2015’ report reveals that 10% of children’s centres were rated outstanding, 56% good, 32% requires improvement and 2% as poor. 

As at 31 March, Ofsted stated there were 1,978 open and inspected single children’s centres. Of those, 67% were judged good or outstanding, 32% required improvement and 1% were judged inadequate at their most recent inspection. 

For single centres, the percentage judged good or outstanding is two percentage points lower than the position as at 31 March 2013. 

Ofsted began inspecting children’s centre groups on 1 April 2013, and as at 31 March 2015 there were 214 open and inspected children’s centre groups. Of those, 52% were judged good or outstanding, 38% required improvement and 9% were judged inadequate at their most recent inspection. 

Children's centres

At a regional level, it was found that London and the north east have the highest proportion (75%) of children's centres judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection. The south west has the lowest proportion (53%) of children’s centres judged good or outstanding. 

The latest findings seem to support PSE findings from earlier this year which revealed that children’s centres are coming under increased pressure with a third of local authorities across England reducing their funding for children’s centres by nearly a third on average in the last five years. 

However, recent research commissioned by the Department for Education suggests that while children’s centres continue to be popular, almost half of the staff are dealing with families ‘on social workers' books’ who have complex needs and are increasingly the focus of their work. 

Senior researcher Professor Kathy Sylva, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Education, said that the study shows that staff and managers in children’s centres are working incredibly hard to meet the needs of their communities. 

“Yet they admit and our qualitative data shows that their overall capacity is over-stretched,” she said. “Delivering the impressive aims of the children’s centre programme will require intelligent management and optimisation of resources to enable centres to continue to offer effective services that support families in poorer areas.” 

The centres in the Oxford University study were mostly located in very disadvantaged areas. Even the few found in less disadvantaged areas still drew one third of their users from poor areas, says the report. Centres typically had a very high level of registration among families with children aged 0-4 and each centre dealt with an average of 770 children. 

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