Ofsted urges ministers to boost children’s homes leadership

The government needs to start using the experience and skills of the leaders of exceptional children's homes to improve standards across the residential...

The government needs to start using the skills of leaders of exceptional children’s homes to improve standards across the residential care sector, Ofsted has recommended.

This was a role previously undertaken by the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Children’s Care (NCERCC) under contract to the Department for Education but was taken in-house by the current government soon after last year’s elections. There has been no word since on the government’s vision for improving standards in children’s homes.

Published today, the Ofsted report highlights 12 of the country’s children’s homes as exceptional, for demonstrating “consistently outstanding performance”. They represent 12 of just 35 children’s homes rated outstanding by Ofsted for the last three consecutive years, out of a possible 1,439.

It recommends the government provide more opportunities to share best practice across children’s homes and review the quality of provision for young people with severe learning difficulties or disabilities after their 18th birthday and the barriers to transition to adult services.

The watchdog also suggested children’s homes should track individual children’s progress during the time they are living in the home and record their destination and achievements after they leave the home to better prove their impact on outcomes.

The report found the key elements in all 12 outstanding homes were effective leaders and well-trained, passionate residential staff. Managers are “visible, inclusive and interact frequently with staff and young people alike”, inspectors found, while staff are recruited not just on qualifications but on whether they shared the vision of the home and were able to quickly establish a rapport with the young people within it.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s chief inspector, said: “Young people living in children’s homes are some of the most vulnerable in the country and it is important that the care they receive is of a consistently high standard. However, inspection shows that too many establishments fluctuate in quality from one year to the next.

“This report shows that it is possible to provide the very best for children year after year and it is essential that others learn from the outstanding practice it highlights.”

Inspectors also found that staff continuity and stability, enabled by a supportive management culture, was essential in helping children develop meaningful and lasting attachments to adults. Managers of outstanding homes included and supported staff in the implementation of improvements, and held staff to account to ensure continuous improvement.

Of the 35 children’s homes which have been judged consistently outstanding 22 are privately run, 12 are run by local authorities and one is a voluntary sector provision.

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