An Ofsted report, following a monitoring visit to examine the progress of children’s services since its latest full inspection in September last year, has found the city council “is making steady progress, and has taken some important steps in improving services for its children and young people”.
Ofsted inspectors visited the council in May to review progress made in the areas of help and protection. They examined case records and spoke to families receiving services, as well as social workers and managers.
They found that “although substantial further progress is required before services are consistently good, in a number of key areas children in Birmingham are receiving better and timelier services. Against a long-standing history of failing to provide good services for children, this represents notable progress”.
Additionally the report found:
- Improved management oversight
- Assessments of children’s needs largely completed without delay and are more child focused, with an improved quality of analysis in most cases
- When children are at immediate risk of significant harm, this is quickly recognised and effectively responded to
- Staff morale is generally good
The Leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor John Clancy, said: “The latest Ofsted inspection demonstrates beyond doubt that Birmingham Children’s Services’ long journey of improvement is marching firmly in the right direction.
“The Inspectors found ‘notable progress’, were satisfied that most concerns about children’s welfare are being dealt with promptly, and concluded that almost all children are now receiving the right level of service.
“I made it clear when becoming council leader that improving children’s services would be my first priority. I am therefore particularly pleased to note Ofsted’s finding that children and young people in Birmingham at immediate risk of significant harm are quickly recognised and effectively responded to.
“As the Ofsted report correctly points out, substantial further progress is required before services are consistently good. There is no room for complacency and I will not be satisfied until Birmingham Children’s Services are rated as excellent.”
Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and families, added: “I’m very pleased to see that the steady progress we have made is being recognised; this reflects a tremendous amount of work from a huge cast of people who have worked tirelessly to get the best outcomes for our children and families.
“Of course we recognise – as does Ofsted – that there is still a long way to go; we have always said that we would need to build strong foundations before we can ensure sustainable improvements.
“However, this is tangible evidence that we are heading firmly in the right direction and I know there will be no complacency as we continue on our improvement. This is a great step forward, building strongly on improvements found in our last Ofsted full inspection.”
Ahead of today’s verbal report to the education scrutiny committee I look at how the city council must work with partners to deal with unregistered schools.
When I met the Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan recently I gave her an assurance that the continuing improvement of children’s services in Birmingham remains the council’s number one priority.
My intention is that Birmingham is recognised as the leading city for young people, for learning and for skills. This is not just about giving every child the opportunity to make the most of their abilities, regardless of their start in life. We will develop a joined-up approach to family support, learning, skills and employment, embedded in the community and the home, working with leaders across the public, private and voluntary sector.
‘Every Child, Every Citizen, Every Place Matters’ – this is not just a slogan but a promise that every school matters, and everyone in those schools matter.
We have heard recently concerns about the growth in unregistered independent schools where children are at best getting a very narrow type of ‘teaching’ and at worst are at risk of exploitation.
This council will provide strong leadership in establishing a city-wide risk assessment of all settings but it has to be a shared responsibility as we have limited powers of intervention with such schools. So it is vital we work in partnership with Ofsted and the Department for Education, which is what we are doing. In fact, since we first raised this as a national concern last year we have completely overhauled how we work with independent schools, and strengthened quality assurance, policies and procedures are now in place.
I have said elsewhere that neither intolerance nor extremism of any kind have a place in our city, and we have the people and experience to help the country as a whole tackle these challenges, rather than simply be a victim of them. We will lead by example to promote inter-cultural relations, working together to achieve shared ambitions and common benefits in our neighbourhoods.
To that end, I will say again and unequivocally that there will be zero tolerance of unregistered independent education provision.
This city council will put its children front and centre in terms of priorities and we are already making good progress with our social care and education improvements, but we need to pull together our council-wide and the safeguarding- and education-specific approaches to active citizenship and cohesive communities.
Put simply, as a council we will always express our care for every child wherever they are in this city, rooted in a deep understanding of the needs of children that demonstrates our promise that they are our priority.