Headlines: March 3rd, 2011

Excellent leadership, recruiting and keeping the right people, getting feedback from the children and having high expectations for their future, are the critical success factors Ofsted inspectors found in excellent children’s homes. But out of more than 1400 homes inspected only 35 were considered to be excellent.

The Ofsted report Outstanding children’s homes, is based on 12 homes that have excelled in helping improve the lives of children and young people in their care.

Around 6,000 children and young people in England live in children’s homes. These are some of the most vulnerable children in the country. They represent around 10% of the total population of looked after children, the large majority of whom live with foster families. Children who live in children’s homes are normally those whose needs cannot be met effectively within foster care or who would benefit from the specialist or structured care a residential placement offers.

The key to the success of these children’s homes is appointing and developing the right people. Good staff have such an impact. They establish good relationships with the children and young people in their care, have the highest expectations of them and do all they can to support their development and their confidence.

The report found that induction and training are vital factors. While experience and qualifications are important, managers did not necessarily look for the most highly qualified staff or those with the longest experience. What was important was that they shared the vision of the home, showed a passion for the work and could quickly establish a strong positive rapport with their children.

Continuity of staffing was essential in helping children develop meaningful and lasting attachments to adults. Maintaining staff stability was encouraged when managers included and supported staff in the implementation of improvements. Holding staff to account also played a key role in developing a culture of continuous improvement and consistency in systems and practice.

The report recommends that the Department for Education considers systematic ways in which the experience and skills of leaders in consistently outstanding children’s homes could be used to improve standards across the residential care sector. Local authorities should also analyse and track how well individual children’s homes support better outcomes for children in care and consider this information when making placements and commissioning services.