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Most local authorities are making a good contribution to improving outcomes for children and young people

But the most vulnerable and underachieving children and young people continue to be let down


In a new report from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) published today, inspectors found that most local authorities are making a good contribution towards delivering better outcomes for the majority of children and young people.


However, Narrowing the gap: the inspection of children’s services also finds that for a significant minority provision is not good enough and authorities need to do more to redress this inequity.  


The overall picture is an improving one, with children’s services in 107 out of the 139 authorities covered by this report making at least a good contribution towards delivering better outcomes for children and young people.


However, the biggest challenge continues to be narrowing the gap in opportunities, provision and outcomes between the majority of children and young people and those that are vulnerable or underachieving.


A second significant theme is that strong partnerships between local authorities and other providers are of pivotal importance in order to secure the level of support and style of service delivery that will improve the achievements of children and young people.   


Director of Education, Miriam Rosen, said:


“Councils and their partners should ensure that services are planned and delivered in an integrated way, and focus on ensuring that individual children and young people make progress. They should secure a balance between sustaining improvements to universal services, while investing in prevention and targeting resources on acute areas of need.”


Inspectors found the following strengths and weaknesses in meeting the five outcomes for children and young people.


Being healthy


Many schools are adopting the National Healthy Schools Programme, with an increasing number of schools achieving the National Healthy Schools standard.


However, a common area of weakness is the poor monitoring and assessment of the physical and mental health needs of vulnerable groups, in particular looked-after children and children with disabilities.


Staying safe


The majority of councils and their partners are successfully securing children’s safety.


In higher performing areas, strong partnership working means that child protection has a high profile, and good analysis of need ensures that the most vulnerable children are safeguarded.


However, in weaker authorities, there are delays in completing assessments, thresholds to access social care services are set too high, and there is a lack of appropriate placements for looked after children. Too frequently, these act as barriers to children’s safety and well-being.


Enjoying and achieving


In the majority of areas, services make a good contribution to ensuring that children enjoy and achieve, but just over one in five local authority areas are only adequate in this regard.


High performing partnerships focus on raising educational standards, provide strong intervention and support for schools causing concern are narrowing gaps in attainment and achievement for particular groups. They add value between Key Stage 1 and 2, as well as between Key Stages 3 and 4.


Nevertheless, in some areas there is ineffective local authority support for poorly performing schools. For some children and young people, poor levels of attendance, unmet behavioural needs and high levels of exclusion are barriers to enjoying and achieving. There are also gaps between local authorities with regard to the extent to which they are improving pupils performance at different key stages, especially at Key Stage 4.


Making a positive contribution


The majority of councils and their partners are performing well in enabling children and young people to make a positive contribution to their community, none were found to be inadequate.


High performing areas are effective in tackling issues raised by young people, such as bullying, and ensure that vulnerable groups and those with particular needs have opportunities to influence local policy and service improvements.


In weaker performing areas, services for vulnerable groups are frequently poorly coordinated and too many young people report that they do not have a voice in the key decisions that affect them.


Achieving economic well-being


Overall, a large majority of councils and their partners are good at supporting young people to achieve economic well-being.


In good partnerships all young people, including those from vulnerable groups, benefit from flexible progression routes and good quality advice and guidance.


However barriers to achieving economic well-being include insufficient support for young people who are not in education, employment or training; the variable quality and range of post-16 provision, and insufficient housing for those that need it.


The report also concludes that most councils and their partners demonstrate a good or outstanding capacity to improve services for children and young people.


The report examines evidence from joint area reviews of local authority children’s services which took place in 2005-06 and the annual performance assessment process that took place in 2006.



  1. Narrowing the gap: The inspection of children’s services  is based on the outcomes for 102 councils receiving annual performance assessments (APAs) in 2006, and the findings from the first 37 joint area reviews (JARs) of children’s services undertaken during 2005–2006.


  1. Joint area reviews and the annual performance assessment process are two complementary elements of the overall children’s services inspection process.


  1. APA is conducted each year and focuses on analysing the contribution that a council’s own services have made in the previous 12 months towards improving outcomes for children and young people.


  1. A joint area review judges the contribution the wider area partnership makes towards improving outcomes for children and young people and, through fieldwork, is able to evaluate the way that local services, taken together, contribute to their well-being. In particular, there is an opportunity through joint area reviews to focus on areas of weakness or gaps in provision, on specific groups of children and young people, or on particular neighbourhoods.


  1. From 1 April 2007 a new single inspectorate for children and learners came into being. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has the responsibility for the inspection of adult learning and training – work formerly undertaken by the Adult Learning Inspectorate; the regulation and inspection of children’s social care – work formerly undertaken by the Commission for Social Care Inspection; the inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service – work formerly undertaken by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration; and the existing regulatory and inspection activities of Ofsted.


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