Sure Start missing too many vulnerable children

Extended schools and children’s centres are failing to attract vulnerable families, inspectors said today.

Inspectors from Ofsted  found that support in Sure Start children’s centres for ethnic minority groups and in particular for children who use English as a second language was “sometimes patchy”.  

And often local authority and children’s centres staff failed to understand who were the “hard-to-reach groups” in their community. 

Refugee children

This left newly arrived refugee children without extended services as schools rarely used family support workers to consult parents who lacked fluent or written English.

The survey, How well are they doing? The impact of children’s centres and extended schools, warned that centres were not “sufficiently active” in reaching out to fathers, ethnic minorities or children from outside the immediate school neighbourhood.

The centres were set up by the government to promote the Every Child Matters outcomes by combining out-of-school extended services in education, childcare, health and family support.

Although the survey found that more than three-quarters of centres were providing good or better services, inspectors did note that centres failed to monitor and evaluate the impact of these services on the outcomes of children. 

Positive impact

However, the services were having a “positive impact” on children’s “achievement and personal development” across the 30 children’s centres and 32 schools in 54 local authorities, inspectors said.

It found that, generally, children were offered a range of activities and were prepared to move from the centres to schools. And inspectors noted that, for vulnerable families who accessed the services, it “transformed the lives of some parents and had positive effects on their children”.

Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector for education, children’s services and skills, said: “Schools and centres need to do more to attract those families and individuals that are not yet using the services to make sure they have the opportunity to benefit too.”

More information

Sure Start
Every Child Matters
How well are they doing?  The impact of children’s centres and extended schools

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