LADYBIRD Children’s Centre in Highworth has been deemed inadequate by Ofsted inspectors at the same time as it takes responsibility for a sister site, which was forced to close due to budget cuts.
Sapling’s Children’s Centre was one of four to be forced to closed or transfer its services after Swindon Council agreed £380,000 of cuts to the centres last September.
The two centres were in the process of merging this month as the damning report was published.
Summarising their visit to the centre, based in Westrop Primary School, inspectors wrote: “The centre does not know how many two-year-olds living in the reach area are eligible for free early education.
“This is because the LA does not provide the information the centre needs to identify the children.
“As a result, neither the local authority nor the children’s centre has a view of how many take up their free entitlement.
“Leaders have an overly positive view about the centre’s effectiveness because they do not track the quality and impact of services in improving children’s and families’ well-being rigorously enough.
“Local authority monitoring lacks sharp focus on supporting the centre’s development.
“The support provided to the vulnerable families who access centre services, including disabled children, is effective and makes a positive difference to their lives.”
Ladybird is the second children’s centre to receive Ofsted’s worst rating in a month after Saltway Children’s Centre at the beginning of January.
Commenting at the time, Fionuala Foley, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “This is not an issue about budgets. It’s about all the centres: “Are there problems in the others, where there have also been cuts? No there aren’t.”
But following this report, Coun Foley said a plan will now be put in place to rectify some of the problems.
“Both the centre’s management and the Local Authority accept the report and its findings, and we are jointly working to address the issues it highlights,” she said.
“In addition the council is currently drawing up a plan, in collaboration with centre managers and others, to make sure that the data provided to all children’s centres allows them to better identify particular target groups so they can be supported at the earliest opportunity.
“The Ofsted criteria for children’s centres changed nine months ago, and around half of Ofsted inspections nationally have found similar issues with the data supplied by local authorities to children’s centres.
“There will always be a time lag between a new policy and the ability to implement it.
“While the report rightly identifies areas that need improvement, it also acknowledges that families who use the centre find the welcome they receive is warm and friendly, and they enjoy using it.
“Those who receive specific support say that without it, they would have very different lives.”