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Trafford's first Children's Centre Ofsted inspection

Article By: Trafford Council

Stretford Surestart Children's Centre is the first of Trafford's Children's Centres to receive an Ofsted inspection.

Inspectors graded it as 'Good' the second highest grade and recognised it had 'Good' capacity for sustained improvement.

Ofsted found a sense of dynamism and purpose running throughout the centre 'stemming from the leaders and extending to staff at every level.'

The report's main findings included the fact the centre provided 'a good quality service to its local community, effectively helping parents and carers to improve their families' well-being.'

Praising its success, inspectors reported this was underpinned by the 'outstanding way in which staff assess users' needs and analyse this information to create a unique package of care and support for each family.'

The report recognised good quality partnerships and information sharing between agencies which helped families swiftly access specialist services.

The strong sense of respect, the centre's warm, friendly environment where staff and users feel relaxed and grow in confidence and wide range of activities available were identified as strengths.

Above average skill levels of children finishing the reception year and significant narrowing of the gap between those with the highest and lowest skills levels were also acknowledged.

Ofsted recognised the good behaviour and social skills of children and the numbers of parents and carers getting involved in developments at the centre.

Good quality leadership and management were found. This allowed the wide range of services, sessions and support to 'run smoothly and is successfully focussed on improving the outcomes for children and their families.'

Families recognised changes introduced which have achieved many improvements. An example was replacing toast with fruit at snack time. This led to children eating more fruit at home and helped reduce obesity levels among local children so they are now broadly in line with national levels.

Ofsted also recognised the success in increasing levels of breastfeeding locally, with many mothers now acting as volunteer peer counsellors.

The appropriate partership working of the wide variety of multi-agency staff within the Children's Centre and their relaxed, effective approach to working with families is also helping improve things for local families.

Thanks to the 'outstanding and sensitive assessment of users' needs' the centre provides a well-balanced range of services, including universal and drop-in sessions and bespoke programmes tailored to individual families.

Building up a comprehensive picture of each family, meant staff could allocate a dedicated centre worker and tailor support and involvement accordingly.

The inspectors acknowledged the willingness of staff to provide home support and go with parents and carers to meetings, where there is reluctance to join group sessions.

Inspectors spoke to health visitors who described the support families received from centre staff as 'above and beyond expectations.' They also recognised the overwhelmingly positive comments, summed up by a parent whose child has disabilities as 'You would never know how much this has helped the family and the relief it brought to the home.'

Executive Councillor Christine Turner said she was delighted with the report.

"This is our first Children's Centre Ofsted inspection. It was rewarding to see so much good practice highlighted and the enormous positive impact it is having on local families.

I was pleased to see the inspectors acknowledging the wide-range of services provided. Also the commitment of all staff to involve families in current and future service developments. While staff are pleased, they are not complacent and are already working on ways to improve further."

The report recommended three areas for further improvement - improving the support and challenge provided to the centre through development of the advisory board, making more effective collection and use of data to identify gaps, plan provision and evaluate its impact on outcomes for users and ensuring links with Jobcentre Plus and adult learning provision are effective in supporting parents and carers to achieve economic stability.

The centre leader and partners have plans in place to develop these areas and have already increased attendance at the advisory board.