Children’s centre ‘needs improvement’

Protest outside county hall, Wakefield against plans to close children's centres in the Wakefield district.
Protest outside county hall, Wakefield against plans to close children's centres in the Wakefield district.

The first Ofsted inspection since a council reshuffle of children’s services has found one of the district’s 12 remaining children’s centres to be “requiring improvement”.

Inspectors said Airedale Children’s Centre in Castleford gave families “good support to overcome a range of barriers”, improving their life chances.

But the Ofsted report said the quality of its services, effectiveness of its leadership and management and access to its services by young children and families all needed improvement.

And while inspectors, who visited the centre last month, praised the balance of services and activities it offered, they said “not enough” parents were benefitting from these and “not enough” families regularly used the centre to get the help they need.

The report said: “The centre’s work to ensure parents with the greatest needs participate in programmes to help them develop their skills and increase their employability is not well established.

“Children who attend make good progress and benefit from well planned activities which have clear aims and objectives that help to develop their knowledge and skills.”

The report praised the centre’s work with health professionals and said disabled children and those affected by domestic abuse received “good individual support”.

The centre’s catchment area expanded in April this year, when the district’s 23 children’s centres were centralised to six main hubs and six “linked” sites.

Inspectors said the transition had been “handled well” with little disruption to services. But they said leaders, governors and managers had “not yet developed robust improvement plans” to ensure the centre “improves outcomes for families”.

Wakefield district currently has 12 children’s centre sites following a reshuffle by Wakefield Council, which came into force earlier this year.

The 23 former centres were centralised into six main sites and six “linked” centres offering extra support in areas of deprivation.

Airedale Children’s Centre is one of the six main sites, while Acorn is Castleford’s “linked” site.

Other main sites are Oakhill in Featherstone, Pomfret in Pontefract, Hemsworth Cedars, Sunbeam in Lupset and Castle in Sandal.The district also has seven hubs where teams of council staff who work with families are based. The council had to make £2.5m worth of savings from its children’s centre budget.

It insisted the changes were designed to improve support for the district’s most vulnerable families.