Headlines: July 10th, 2009

Sure Start children’s centres are providing invaluable support for children, their families and the local community, according to the latest report from Ofsted. It praises the effective integration of services, a positive ethos and the ‘can do’ approach of professionals but recommends closer working between the centres and schools.

For ‘The impact of integrated services on children and their families in Sure Start children’s centres,’ which is published today, Ofsted has surveyed 20 centres in six local authorities, all in deprived areas of the country. The study found more than half of the centres were providing effective integration of services and were making life-changing differences.

At fifteen of the centres leadership and management were rated as good or outstanding. Learning and development of children and parents was also good or outstanding in more than half of centres. Some schools reported that centres were helping children’s attitudes to learning and social development as they moved into primary school.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said: “These children’s centres provide a range of invaluable services in supporting children and their families in the some of the most disadvantaged communities. The enthusiasm and commitment among professionals in the centres working in education and care, health and social care is evident and deserves recognition.”

The report recommends that schools work more closely with children’s centres to help track the development of children who had received support from the centres. Some centres had extended their work into the community, providing training and opportunities for the sharing best practice for childminders and even welcoming young people onto skills training courses. Centres in rural communities faced particular challenges because while the needs were similar to those in inner city areas geographic isolation meant greater difficulty and cost in providing services.