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Hard-hit children’s centres in Herefordshire criticised by Ofsted

Herefordshire Council’s funding for children’s centres has dropped by nearly 80% in the last five years, and now two of its sites have been heavily criticised by Ofsted. 

A PSE investigation into the state of children’s centres across England revealed that Herefordshire had the largest funding reduction for children’s centres in the country, with almost all relevant councils having responded to our freedom of information requests.  

Since 2010-11, Herefordshire’s children’s centre funding has fallen by 79%, from £2.3m a year to £480,229. 

The council serves a population of more than 180,000 people and runs 10 children’s centres – a number that has not decreased despite the drop in funding. 

Some sites, however, are operating with reduced hours. For instance, South City’s South Meadow centre is now mainly a supervised contact hub with a “much reduced” children’s centre delivery. 

During two recent Ofsted inspections, Ryefield Children's Centre in Ross-on-Wye was rated ‘inadequate’ and Golden Valley Children's Centre, Peterchurch, was rated ‘requires improvement’. 

At Ryefield the inspectors noted that much of the information provided to the centre by the local authority relates to the whole county and not specifically to the area around Ryefield. “Leaders are not therefore able to effectively plan and evaluate the impact of services,” said Ofsted. 

On top of this, leaders hold an “overly optimistic” view of the centre’s performance. This is because “monitoring is poor” and plans to improve the centre “do not link closely to local needs”. 

In the Golden Valley centre it was noted that there is a “lack of precise measures” in planning to help leaders judge whether improvement is good enough. Ofsted added that the local authority does “not set challenging targets to assist the centre’s development”. 

In response, Cllr Jeremy Millar, Herefordshire Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: “Although disappointed, we accept the reports as an accurate appraisal of the children's centres visited. 

“We have taken immediate action to address the most pressing matters and will be working hard with partners to achieve sustainable improvements.” 

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