Children's service improves . . . but not enough

ROTHERHAM’S under-fire children’s services have been upgraded from poor to adequate after being served with a notice to improve by inspectors.

In last year’s annual assessment, Ofsted rated the service—which covers all aspects of education, social care and other support services for young people—as “performing poorly.”

Since then the borough council has been regularly monitored and the department has take action to improve the service.

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This week, inspectors lifted the service’s rating from poor to adequate.

Cllr Paul Lakin, said: “This is a positive step along the way to improving services and it is pleasing to see that Ofsted recognises the large amount of work we have carried out.

“We hope this assessment will take us closer to removing the notice to improve and we will be discussing that with the Department for Education in the near future.”

Conservative Cllr Thomas Fenoughty praised the improvements but said that much more needed to be done.

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He said: “It is a relief to finally hear that Rotherham now has a service that is adequate.

“I can honestly say that hard work by the department has gone into achieving this assessment.

“That is not to say that it is good enough by any means. Labour has continually under-funded the department in Rotherham since at least 2008.

“Adequate is not good enough for the protection and education of our young people and it certainly is not good enough for the tax payer.”

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The latest assessment brings together Ofsted’s review of services, schools and education in Rotherham.

Inspectors found that “strong action,” additional investment and improvements had been made over the past 18 months.

The council was praised for good multi-agency partnership working, successful work to recruit and retain staff and reducing the number of young people committing crimes for the first time or re-offending.

Inspectors found that children were “generally safe within the community,” rated the council’s adoption agency as “good” and highlighted the town’s improvements to services for children with emotional or mental health difficulties.

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Inspectors also praised all five of the borough’s special schools which are rated “outstanding.”

Cllr Lakin added: “The assessment contains no surprises to us and in some or all of the areas highlighted we have already started to take action to improve.

“We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that the improvements we have already seen are maintained and we aim to pick up the pace of development so we continue to see an upward movement in inspection grades.”

Inspectors set the council four targets to improve secondary schools so that more are good or better, improve the outcomes for children at the end of primary school, increase the number of good childminders and maintain the momentum of improvement in social care services.

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Cllr Fenoughty said that he still had other concerns about the current situation.

He added: “There are still questions to be raised such as why are Rotherham Labour opposing free schools when Ofsted has already stated we need more secondary schools that are good or better?

“Also, why are costs for consultants still increasing, even when vacant social workers’ posts have been filled?

“The department needs to continue to work hard, improve standards across the board and I and my Conservative colleagues will be there to help.”