The local services and support provided through children’s centres have the potential to prevent families from reaching crisis point and give vulnerable children a much better start in life than they might otherwise have had.
However, according to Ofsted, of the 89 centres inspected from April to June 2014, just 48% achieved a good or outstanding grade. When budgets are under pressure, it is vital that public funded services improve lives.
I have shared a few top tips from authorities I know that are running outstanding children’s centres in a previous blog. But one thing I have not touched on before is the importance of having a team of staff on board who are focussed on achieving the centre’s objectives.
This can make a major difference to the effectiveness of a children’s centre. But what can be done to create the right environment?
Measure and celebrate success
I have often heard senior leaders of children’s services talk about the energy and commitment of frontline staff being fundamental to the success of any initiative designed to transform the lives of children and families in need. This is equally essential in a children’s centre.
When a team of staff understand what the centre is trying to achieve and which children and families they are trying to reach, they are in a much better position to play a shared role in meeting these objectives. One way to do this is to set targets for the centre and closely track progress towards them. With the right tools in place, accessing the data you need can be a simple task.
Involving the whole team in this can reap rewards too. An outstanding centre I know has an engagement thermometer on display showing the latest attendance figures. There are also a plethora of colourful charts and graphs on the wall showing anything from the percentage of vulnerable families who attended the immunisation clinic to the number of family support visits that have taken place that week.
There is great enthusiasm among the team to see the progress the centre is making and the knock on effect is that more families are encouraged to engage with the services on offer. This centre has seen a 35% rise in the number of families coming along over the last 12 months.
First and foremost, children’s centre’s need to understand what help their community needs and where.
But putting measures in place that will encourage all staff to work towards the same goals can help to take a centre to the next level in terms of delivering top quality support and services.