Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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The majority of local authorities are providing good services for local children and young people

Yesterday Ofsted publishes the outcomes of the 2011 annual children’s services assessments for local authorities across England. It shows that the majority of authorities are providing good or better children’s services, with 28 authorities providing excellent services for children in their area, eight more than last year.

This year 25 authorities have improved their overall performance, with 11 improving from performing adequately to performing well.

The annual children’s services assessment this year found that overall 71 authorities are performing well, 33 are providing adequate services and, similar to the previous year, 15 authorities are performing poorly. The outcomes for 5 authorities are not being published today as further inspections are due to take place.

Commenting on this year’s assessments, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Miriam Rosen, said:

'It is encouraging to see that more authorities continue to provide excellent services for children and young people in their local area. These authorities are a beacon for others and must be congratulated for their achievement in supporting and helping to ensure that children are safe, happy and get the best possible start in life.

'This year’s children’s services assessments have shown that more authorities have improved their children’s services than declined, and a large majority have sustained their strong performance. However, the pattern of improvement is still too variable. The challenge now is for all authorities to aspire to provide the highest level of services for all children and young people in their community.'

An analysis of the results indicates that local authorities that have improved their services to performing well have been able to tackle identified weaknesses and underperformance. The quality of universal services, such as childcare, primary and secondary schools and post-16 education provision, has improved for these authorities in almost all cases. Some local authorities have also achieved considerable improvement in social care services including adoption and fostering, and in keeping children safe from harm.

However, in authorities that have declined and are now judged as performing adequately, the quality of services is mixed and too much is only satisfactory. Typically, there has been little or no improvement, or even a decline in services, including primary and secondary schools. In addition, strategies to narrow achievement gaps between children whose circumstances make them potentially vulnerable and their peers are not always successful, especially for 16-year-olds from low-income families.

Seven authorities have declined in their performance since last year.

The following table provides a breakdown of the number of authorities achieving each grade in the 2010 children’s services assessments:

Children’s services assessments 2011 Number Percentag
Performs excellently 28 18%
Performs well 71 41%
Performs adequately 33 22%
Performs poorly 15 10%
Judgements to be finalised 5 3%
Total 15 100%

Within each level there will be differing standards of provision. For example, an assessment of ‘performs excellently’ does not mean all aspects of provision are outstanding. Similarly, an assessment of ‘performs poorly’ does not mean there are no adequate or even good aspects.

In the best performing authorities:

  • there are high numbers of services and settings which are good or outstanding
  • there are strengths in local safeguarding arrangements and services for looked after children
  • there is consistency with which authorities place looked after children in good or outstanding children’s homes
  • special schools are almost always good or better
  • children and young people are generally supported well to be safe and achieve their best. As a result, most reach educational standards that are at least in line with national averages for their age, although lower attainment among looked after children remains a widespread concern.
  • children and young people attend secondary schools where behaviour is almost always good and absence rates are generally low.

In authorities that performs poorly:

  • there are substantial inadequacies in keeping children and young people safe from harm
  • too many schools and sixth forms are no better than satisfactory
  • levels of absences in schools are high and standards of behaviour are not as good as elsewhere.

List of local authorities

Notes to editors

1. Individual letters to each local authority setting out their assessments are available on request from the press office. The content is embargoed until 00:01 on 8 November.

2. The following local authorities were judged to be performing excellently: Barnet, Buckinghamshire, Camden, City of London, Dorset, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hampshire, Harrow, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lewisham, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, Luton, Newcastle upon Tyne, North Somerset, North Tyneside, Oldham, Plymouth, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton, Trafford, Wandsworth, Westminster, Wirral, York.

3. The following local authorities were judged to be performing poorly: Birmingham, Calderdale, Cheshire West and Cheshire, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Kent, Peterborough, Salford, Sandwell, Slough, Staffordshire, Torbay, Waltham Forest, West Sussex and Worcestershire.

4. Five local authorities have been excluded from the 2011 data as outcomes of their annual assessment are subject to further inspection.

5. Since 2009 Ofsted has been providing performance ratings for children’s services assessments. Ofsted has a statutory duty to provide an annual assessment of Children’s Services in England as set out in The Education and Inspection Act 2006. The annual assessment looks at the performance from of children’s services in each of the 152 local authorities with children’s services responsibilities as well as providers that are located within in area but are not accountable to the authority, such as academies. Judgements brings together the findings from direct observation of professional practice, including childcare, schools, child protection services and safeguarding, children’s social care and provisions in the learning and skills sector.

6. The performance profile captures the main findings of Ofsted inspections and regulation together with data from the National Indicator Set and presents them all in a local profile.

It is in three Blocks – Block A groups all the findings of Ofsted inspections and regulation of services and settings. Block B includes inspections of Safeguarding and Looked After Children Services together with the serious case review evaluation and the outcomes of Joint Area Reviews undertaken since April 2006 and Block C groups the data from the National Indicator Set under the five Every Child Matters headings.

In coming to the annual assessment inspectors analyse the data in the profile with the emphasis on Blocks A and B. This means that the annual assessment draws on a wide range of findings from front line inspection and regulation, drawing on the direct observation of professional practice, for example, in schools and children’s homes; the views of children and young people using those services; and interactions during inspection with managers and other stakeholders.

The profiles will be published on 8 November alongside the children’s services assessment letters for individual councils.

7. In 2011 a number of revisions have been made to the performance profile to take account of changes at local and national level. The National Indicator Set was discontinued in 2010. Therefore the 2011 children’s services assessment has made use of four-year trends in performance in the Early Years Foundation Stage, at Key Stages 2 and 4, and in level 3 attainment at the age of 19 (Level 3 qualifications are the equivalent of two passes at A level). Consideration has also been given to the extent to which gaps in attainment have narrowed between particular groups of children and young people, such as those who are eligible for free school meals and their peers.

8. Over the last year, there has been a considerable increase in the number of schools, many of them good or better, that have closed and subsequently become an academy or converted to academy status, either singly or as part of a federation. To ensure consistency in the assessment of each local authority, the most recent inspection grades of such schools were taken into consideration, even though they may not appear in the local authority’s published performance profile. A further refinement to the assessment process concerned places or services commissioned from the private and voluntary social care sectors. Local authorities were asked to provide information about their placement and commissioning practice which ensured that they were assessed on the basis of services that they actually used, rather than those that happened to fall within their geographical areas (For example, an authority will not necessarily use a local, privately run children’s home).

9. All judgements are made on the following four-point scale:

4 Performs excellently An organisation that significantly exceeds minimum requirements
3    Performs well An organisation that exceeds minimum requirements
2 Performs adequately An organisation that meets only minimum requirements
1 Performs poorly     An organisation that does not meet minimum requirements

10. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

11. The Ofsted Press Office can be contacted on 0300 123 1231 between 8.30am and 6.30pm Monday to Friday. Out of hours we can be reached on 07919 057359.

12. Percentages are rounded and do not always add exactly to 100.


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