Headlines: January 23rd, 2008

Local authorities and central Government need to do more to monitor and
evaluate the impact of children’s centres according to a new report. The
study “How well are they doing: the impact of children’s centres and
extended schools”, is published today by the Office for Standards in
Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

The Ofsted report looks at the difference the services are making,
particularly to vulnerable groups and in promoting the ‘Every Child
Matters’ outcomes. Overall it finds the centres are making a positive
contribution to improving the lives of children and their families. It
follows a report in 2006, which focused on the national roll-out of
extended services for children and young people.

Christine Gilbert, Chief Inspector for Education, Children’s Services and
Skills, said it was encouraging to see extended schools, and children’s
centres in particular, making good progress. She added, “However, the
monitoring and evaluating of the impact of these services is an area for
improvement, especially in relation to the academic attainment of children
and young people.”

The report found that the quality of local authorities’ strategic
leadership for the services varied. They provided a consistent steer on
setting up provision but support for monitoring and evaluating services was
rare. Ofsted makes a number of recommendations for local authorities,
including calling on them to support schools and centres in strategic
planning and monitoring and evaluating their impact as well as ensuring
there is training for managers to develop self-evaluation. Councils, the
report suggests, should also support centres in improving the link between
assessments and planning of learning and development.

It also recommends that the Department for Children, Schools and Families
should clarify long-term funding arrangements to promote the sustainability
of services and staffing and that it supports local authorities in
embedding the performance management arrangements set out in guidance
issued in 2006. The centres themselves are recommended to broaden
participation by the wider community and more vulnerable groups.