Most local authorities contribute effectively to promoting children’s safety and welfare and to ensuring they enjoy their education and achieve well, according to Ofsted’s 2007/08 Annual Report.
In 2007/08 we published 44 joint area reviews (JARS) of local authority areas. These reviews focused on children and young people at greatest risk of underachieving and most in need of safeguarding, as well as on any service areas that are underperforming. In addition, we carried out 137 annual performance assessments of the contribution to the Every Child Matters outcomes made by local authority children’s services.
The majority of the 44 councils and their partners inspected this year through JAR have good arrangements for safeguarding children and young people. This includes arrangements to keep them safe from accidents, crime and bullying. Leadership from Local Safeguarding Children Boards is increasingly effective. Sharing of information between agencies, on child protection or welfare concerns, is improving but there is still more to do.
In our annual performance assessments, the majority of council areas make a good contribution to the ‘enjoying and achieving’ outcome but, in around a quarter, this was only satisfactory. In these cases, the rate of improvement in educational standards is too slow. Achievement and standards are improving overall but there is too much variability, particularly for the most vulnerable groups of pupils, such as looked after children.
Many local authorities are developing clear strategies to enhance community cohesion, reflecting their strong commitment to equality and diversity
Two thirds of services inspected deliver good or better provision for children and young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. In the best examples, referrals and assessment are timely, the multi-agency support provided is well coordinated, and parents and carers receive helpful information. Although these children often make good progress at school, many councils don’t use the data they’ve collected to establish whether they have achieved as much as they could overall.
The Children and Young People’s Plan is now at the heart of the improvement process for children’s services
Provision for looked after children was good or outstanding in over three quarters of the services inspected. The improvement in some aspects of support is dramatic, for example in the proportion of looked after children who have an annual health check or who are supported by a qualified social worker. Yet, some indicators such as attendance and educational standards remain poor in comparison with those for other young people. The gap between the standards reached by looked after children and their peers is growing. Where the educational achievement of this group of children is good or better, all aspects of health and social care, as well as educational provision for them, are effective.
As populations increase, a number of local authority areas are rapidly becoming more ethnically diverse. Many are developing clear strategies to enhance community cohesion, reflecting their strong commitment to equality and diversity. In a few areas, however, whilst the issues are being tackled locally, the effectiveness of the actions taken is inconsistent.
The Children and Young People’s Plan is now at the heart of the improvement process for children’s services. Local authorities that know how to tackle weaknesses, and have taken effective action to improve one aspect of their services, are more likely to be successful in tackling new priorities.
Published: 1 December 2008.