Crescent Children’s Centre judged as outstanding by Ofsted

A children’s centre has become the first in the city to be judged as outstanding by government inspectors.

The Crescent Children’s Centre in Meir, run by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, has been given the glowing accolade by Ofsted. It means that The Crescent site is now only the second in the entire country to be home to a primary school, children’s centre and pre-school nursery that are all designated ‘outstanding’ after separate Ofsted inspections.

The centre was subjected to a rigorous two-day inspection in November, during which inspectors looked at all aspects of its work. They spoke to staff, parents, carers, volunteers, local schools, members of the centre’s advisory board and partners including an adult training organisation and a voluntary organisation.

The inspectors observed the centre’s work and looked at a range of relevant documents to find evidence of the impact it has on the children and families it serves. This included assessing how the centre helped parents, prospective parents and young children to access services, and made sure they benefited from the services offered; and how the centre improved the wellbeing of young children.

Out if 18 areas inspected, The Crescent was judged ‘outstanding’ in 17 and ‘good’ in one.

Councillor Debra Gratton, cabinet member for children’s services, said:

This is one of the most glowing Ofsted inspections I have ever read, and it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the centre its staff, parents and volunteers that they have achieved such a fabulous report. Ofsted is only beginning to start inspecting children’s centres in the same way it does schools, and The Crescent has set the benchmark for others to follow. To have the children’s centre, Crescent Primary School and The Crescent Pre-School Nursery all on the same site, delivering outstanding services, is a credit to the city and shows parents and families that their children are in good hands.

The detailed 10-page Ofsted report praised the centre’s strong leadership and management, its success in engaging parents in the Meir area and described the effect its services have on families as ‘excellent’ and ‘outstanding’.

The report said parents and carers had high levels of understanding regarding the development of their child. The report described the centre’s processes for business planning and service delivery as ‘exemplary’, that parents and carers ‘feel they are listened to, respected and not judged’, that safeguarding is ‘a high priority and embedded exceptionally well in all systems’, and that children with disabilities are ‘particularly well-supported’. The report also said that outreach services have improved accessibility of hard to reach groups and that there has been an increase in the registration of families with different nationalities.

Inspectors told parents

You are rightly very proud of your centre as it is outstanding in almost everything it does. The way the centre works with its partners is particularly impressive. It has meant they reach and support all of you in a way that has given you the skills and confidence to support your children in their learning as well as contribute to improvements in the centre. The people in charge of running your centre are doing an excellent job. They are continually increasing their reach to target groups such as fathers. We have every confidence that they will continue to carry on improving the quality of services.

Tracy Jackson OBE, locality manager for children’s centres in the south of the city, including The Crescent, said

We are delighted with the Ofsted inspectors’ endorsements and comments. The ‘outstanding’ status is a tribute to the hard work of the staff, parents and volunteers. It was a detailed inspection which looked at everything we do and I am delighted that the findings clearly recognise the difference the centre is making to children and families.

Children’s centres were established to bridge the attainment gap for the most disadvantaged children. Ofsted assess the leadership and management of a centre and make sure it is having an impact and providing the right level of support for families.

This outstanding result, and the passion and knowledge our parents showed when talking to inspectors, shows we are making a difference and giving the children of Meir a better start in life.

Last year staff at The Crescent were named the UK Children’s Centre Team of the Year by national charity Together for Children.

Parent Katrina Danyiova said

The Crescent Children’s Centre has helped me with my language and cared for my children while I have been doing the English for speakers of other languages course. The centre has also helped my daughter by supporting her special needs.

Parent Claire Lawrence added

The centre has helped my three-year-old son with his speech and language transition into nursery school. Community development work has helped me with my confidence through volunteering.

Children’s Scrutiny Chair Slams Council Report and Demands Urgent Meeting

The Chair of the Children’s & Young Peoples Overview & Scrutiny meeting Cllr Dave Conway slammed the quality of a Council report and demanded that officers present a more comprehensive and up to date document before the Cabinet meet on 25th August.

His outburst came after it was revealed that the Children’s Centres attendance figures used in the report to members of the C&YPS committee were inaccurate and substantially out of date.

It was also revealed that the £2.25million worth of cuts, which equates to 30% of the Children’s Centres income, had already been removed from the budget.

There was also confusion over staffing levels due to the way the report was written which also drew criticism from the committee chair.

The Cabinet Member with responsibility for C&YPS, Cllr Debra Gratton reminded the committee that the recent statutory public consultation was not about the £2.25million of cuts as that had already been decided and agreed by the Council executive. It was about the services and facilities that would be on offer at the Children’s Centres in the future.

The Director of Children & Young People Services told the members of the scrutiny meeting that a reduction in staff and services at the city’s children’s centres could not be avoided due to the massive reduction in her departmental budget. She told the meeting that the Children’s Centres used to offer a Rolls Royce of a service but had had to reduce the level of service provided to the equivalent of a lesser model as a result of the necessity to save £12.6milion across her department. She said that she, the assistant directors and the managers had used a RAG rating system to identity the possible savings. It had been their priority to protect the Safeguarding Children side of the department.

Both the Cabinet Member and Departmental Director reminded the committee that no officer or politician found making these cuts easy or in the least bit palatable, but there was no alternative.

Committee Chair Cllr Dave Conway revealed that following his extensive research he had established that any Children’s Centre that was closed would be subject to a financial claw back by central government of around £1million per site. He interrogated the officers to whether this had played a role in the retention of the 7 Children’s Centres originally earmarked for closure.

Cllr Conway speculated whether the Labour Party had really saved the Children’s Centre’s due to the depth of public feeling or the fact that Central Government would get to claw back much more than was potentially being saved by this reorganisation.

Cllr Conway proposed that the report presented be rejected and a more comprehensive document, including accurate and up to date figures along with extensive feedback from the recent consultation, be presented to a specially arranged meeting of the C&YPS. This must be before the Cabinet meet on the 25th August to make a decision on the reorganisation of the children’s centres.

The committee agreed with the proposal.

It was also bad news for Children in school who were deaf or had severe hearing impairment.

Despite an ePetition with 588 signatures calling on Stoke-on-Trent City Council to reverse these cuts, protect services for deaf children and ensure all deaf children in Stoke on Trent have a fair chance to achieve, the Director of C&YPS and her officers revealed that the cuts to staffing had already been implemented.

Cllr Alistair Watson told the meeting that he had calculated that there would be around a 50% reduction in staffing.

C&YPS officers assured the committee members that support for deaf children would not been adversely affected and would include:

The support comes from:-

Teachers of the deaf with specialist qualifications – There are 5 qualified teachers of the deaf (June 2011), a reduction of 2 since April 2010.

Communication Support Workers – Numbers vary according to need but all hold additional qualifications such as British Sign Language and speech and language (currently 8 in post).

Audiology – One of the teachers of the deaf will qualify as an audiologist in 2011.

After the meeting I managed to catch up with the Chair of the C&YPS Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Dave Conway.

Listen to the Audio Interview below.

Stoke-on-Trent’s Let’s Talk Consultation Results Published

The residents of Stoke-on-Trent are most concerned about the future of children’s centres, according to the city council’s Let’s Talk consultation.

Other areas of concern were the shop mobility service, Shelton pool, Meir community centre and Tunstall pool.
Almost 1,000 comments were received during the six week campaign which was launched by council leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez on November 1. The comments will be considered by the Cabinet before final decisions are made about the budget next year.

It included sending a leaflet to all homes; many community meetings; an Ask the Leader day and a live web question and answer session with the Leader.

[Cllr Mohammed Pervez said]”This extensive consultation has given our residents the chance to tell us what they consider to be most important to them”
“We will look carefully at all the comments but we need to be perfectly clear: the government’s financial settlement for the city is the worst in living memory. Tough choices will need to be made. We have very little room to manoeuvre given the extent of these government cuts “[/quote]

The top eight results are:

1 Children’s Centres (141 responses/15pc)
2 Shopmobility (76/8pc)
3 Meir Community Centre (66/7pc)
4 Shelton Pool (48/5pc):
5 Tunstall Pool (36/4pc)
5 Keep Library Services (36/4pc):
5 Etruria Ind Museum/Ford Green Hall (36/4pc)
8 Stanley Head (30/3pc).

Further details on the consultation are available at

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Issue Statement Over Children’s Centres

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have tonight issued a statement form Leader Mohammed Pervez which clarifies their positions on the future of the City’s Children Centres.

It follows the Pits n Pots story today regarding a meeting held at the Bridge Centre where it was claimed that the staff employed at the various children centres across the city had been informed that they would not be closed.

It had also been claimed by a source who attened the meeting that the meeting had been informed that there would be a 10% reduction in staff.

“No final decision regarding any of the budget proposals has been made yet and will not be made until we know our financial settlement from government. This is the message that I have consistently given throughout the consultation process and until I formally announce otherwise this will remain to be the council’s position.

“Staff have been briefed to give them the potential scope of what the proposals could mean for their departments and their roles if the full set of savings proposals had to be delivered.”

Consultations, Revelations and Common Sense

Tonight [Monday] I attended the hastily-called public meeting to discuss the implications of the closure of Meir CEC.

This was a result of a situation not far from Daniel in the Lion’s Den a few weeks ago, when cabinet member Mervyn Smith turned up for an informal Let’s Talk budget event to be confronted by about 100 Meir residents, wanting to know why the Community Education Centre was potentially under threat of closure as part of the budget process.

Before I go any futher, for those who aren’t aware of what is happening, in advance of the government issuing the City Council with the details of the amount of money it is going to be given for the next year’s budget, and pre-empting the fact that it is likely to be a good deal less than that previously received, the Cabinet have collated a consultation scheme of savings of varying severity, to deal with the anticpated shortfall. These have been sorted into various traffic light colours, both dependent upon how easy they are to achieve and also how much money they would save. At the far end of the spectrum, a big reduction in money received could lead to the loss of several libraries, a significant proportion of Children’s Centres and numerous other services. As you can imagine, opening the books in such a way has caused a bit of a splash.

Whether I agree with a number of the savings suggested is probably a blog for another day (the short answer is “I don’t”), but for now I just wanted to blog on the implications of closing the Meir CEC for my community, where I live and the area I represent on the Council. I don’t think anyone imagines for a second that shutting such a centre is going to be easy, or that it won’t have an impact on the local community, however what has struck me at both the meetings I have attended at the Meir CEC about the potential closure, is the total lack of common sense exhibited in where Meir is now and the community assets we have.

I was totting up in my mind the other night what I have in my ward ““ 5 pubs, 3 chip shops, 2 high schools and 2 swimming pools, amongst many other things. One high school has been rebuilt at great expense, the other will shut in the next 18 months. Both have a swimming pool, but only one has a swimming pool that you could swim in (the other is apparently not fit for use) – and it’s not at the school you would think it was at.

Within less than half a mile of each other, I have a Local Office that is really too small for purpose, a library, a youth centre and a purpose built Community Education Centre, 3 of which have had piles of money spent on them within the last 10 years ““ but at no point did anyone stop and consider that maybe, just maybe, amalgamating premises might be a good idea? This situation makes me want to bang my head on the floor, because it means we are in a really difficult corner with where we go now. I don’t want to lose any facilities in my ward if we can save them, but the complete and utter lack of foresight in planning is just unbelievable.

The funny thing is that at both meetings, this crazy situation has been raised by numerous members of the public. They want to know why we haven’t amalgamated services into a couple of premises, because after all, it’s common sense. Perhaps harking back to my blog last week about feeling you have to defend the Council just because you’re part of it now, I really shake my head in dispair at those whose footsteps I follow in. What were you thinking??

So, back to tonight’s meeting. It was quite nice to see the portfolio holder for community services, Terry Follows, saying he didn’t want to see the Meir CEC shut, and I hope that he will join with the local councillors of Meir in making that very clear to the Cabinet and the rest of the Council. However, I also hope he ponders on where strategic thinking comes into play and uses his portfolio, which is in a pivotal position with relation to community services, to really think out of the box. Places like Meir are relying on it.