Twenty councils across the country are providing excellent children’s services, double the number for the previous year, according to the results of the children’s services assessments 2010, published by Ofsted in December 2010.
Ofsted has a statutory duty to provide an annual assessment of local authorities’ services for children and young people in England as set out in The Education and Inspections Act 2006.
This rating is based on a new approach introduced in 2009 and uses the findings of Ofsted inspection and regulation reports of a full range of services for which local authorities have some responsibility, either alone or in partnership. It draws on the direct observation of professional practice, including inspection of childcare, schools, child protection services and safeguarding, children’s social care and provision in the learning and skills sector. The performance profile of each local area also takes into account selected education and social care data from the government’s National Indicator Set.
All judgements are made on a four-point scale. The 20 excellent councils that are significantly exceeding minimum requirements represent all local authority types and include rural areas to metropolitan centres. In addition, 78 councils are performing well by exceeding minimum requirements. Thirty seven councils are rated as providing adequate services by meeting only minimum requirements and 14 councils are performing poorly overall and not meeting minimum requirements. The outcomes for three authorities have not been published as further inspections are due to take place.
Within each scale there will be differing standards of provision. For example, a rating of ‘performs excellently’ does not mean all aspects of provision are outstanding. Similarly, a rating of ‘performs poorly’ does not mean there are no adequate or even good aspects in the local authority’s performance.
In the best performing authorities:
- the very large majority of services ensure good or outstanding outcomes for all children and young people, including the most vulnerable
- children are supported well during their early years and at each stage of schooling up until they enter further education, work or training
- standards in schools are at least as good as in similar areas and often better
- arrangements work effectively to keep children safe from harm
- children are helped to become healthy, active members of their schools and local communities
- expectations are high and all children are helped to make best use of their abilities, knowledge and skills to become successful individuals
- officers and councillors know where further improvements are needed and have clear plans to tackle any underperformance.
In authorities that perform poorly:
- there are inadequacies in the systems for keeping children and young people safe from harm
- schools – particularly secondary schools – are not performing well enough
- provision for those over the age of 16 is generally weak
- there are weaknesses in performance management systems and difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff
- serious shortcomings in children’s services, particularly safeguarding, have not been tackled.