Children’s centres provide a range of services that benefit children as well as parents, Ofsted report finds

Children's centres and extended schools make a positive contribution to improving the lives of children and their families, as well as achieving overall success, according to How well are they doing: the impact of children's centres and extended schools, published today by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted).

Ofsted's report evaluates the impact of the services provided by extended schools and children's centres, particularly on vulnerable groups, and on promoting the Every Child Matters outcomes. It follows an earlier report by Ofsted in 2006, which focused on the national roll-out of a programme of extended services for children and young people.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector for Education, Children's Services and Skills, said:

"It's encouraging to see that extended schools, and children's centres in particular, are making good progress overall in the range of services they offer for children, young people and their families.

However, the monitoring and evaluating the impact of these services is an area for improvement - especially in relation to the academic attainment of children and young people. And schools and centres need to do more to attract those families and individuals that are not yet using the services to make sure they have the opportunity to benefit too."

Parents valued the variety of childcare options offered by children's centres, and learning proved more effective when the senior leadership team included staff with a background in education. Another positive sign was that children moving on from children's centres were generally well prepared for school.

The majority of schools offered a variety of out-of-school activities such as homework clubs, study support, sport, music tuition, special interest clubs and volunteering. Those schools with the most effective services integrated the development of extended provision into school improvement plans, and also had a clear focus on improving outcomes for children and young people.

However, despite a multitude of services being offered by the schools and children's centres visited, these were not always well co-ordinated. Where co-ordination was good, take up had improved.

The quality of local authorities' strategic leadership also varied. While they provided a consistent steer on setting up provision, support for monitoring and evaluating the impact of services was rare.

People using extended services already are being well served by schools and children's centres, but more needs to be done to attract individuals and families who are reluctant to use them or are unaware of the benefits available. These individuals and families include minority ethnic groups or individuals with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

Ofsted recommendations:
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) should:

  • clarify long-term funding arrangements with other partners to promote the sustainability of services and staffing
  • support local authorities to embed the performance management arrangements recommended in the guidance issued in November 2006.

Local Authorities should:

  • support schools and children's centres in strategic planning and in monitoring and evaluating the impact of their services
  • ensure that training is available for managers of children's centres to develop self-evaluation
  • support children's centres in improving the link between assessment and planning for children's learning and development.

Schools and children's centres should:

  • evaluate the impact of their services on the achievement and attainment of children and young people
  • in planning their extended provision, seek to broaden participation, particularly by the wider community and more vulnerable groups.

Related links

Notes for Editors

1. How well are they doing: the impact of children's centres and extended schools is available on the Ofsted website today at: www.ofsted.gov.uk.
2. The survey was conducted between September 2006 and April 2007. Inspectors visited 30 children's centres and 32 schools in 54 local authorities that had established, or were developing, extended services.
3. On 1 April 2007 a new single inspectorate for children and learners came into being. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) has the responsibility for the inspection of adult learning and training - work formerly undertaken by the Adult Learning Inspectorate; the regulation and inspection of children's social care - work formerly undertaken by the Commission for Social Care Inspection; the inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service - work formerly undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration; and the existing regulatory and inspection activities of Ofsted.
4. Ofsted evaluated the impact of the services provided by extended schools and children's centres on children and young people from birth to 19 and their families. It follows an earlier report on extended services which focused on the evaluation of the national roll-out of provision. This survey looked into the effect of the services provided on promoting the Every Child Matters outcomes.
5. The Ofsted Press Office can be contacted on 08456 4040404 between 8am-6pm from Monday to Friday, and during evenings and weekends on 07919 057359