Children's services in ratings fall

STEVE DOWNES Norfolk County Council will lose one of its coveted performance stars after its largest department suffered a blow in the ratings, it was revealed last night.


Norfolk County Council will lose one of its coveted performance stars after its largest department suffered a blow in the ratings, it was revealed last night.

Children's services has fallen from a "good" grade three to an "adequate" grade two after a year plagued by a growing number of schools in special measures, more children in care and slower-than-average improvements in GCSE results.

In a separate assessment, adult social services has retained its "good" rating following an inspection by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI).

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The blow for children's services means the county council overall will drop from the maximum four stars - a rating gained with great pride earlier this year - to three when it gets its annual performance assessment in February.

Last night Lisa Christensen, director of children's services, said there was a "determination to improve" prospects for children and young people in Norfolk, despite the slip in the Ofsted ratings.

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She said: "We are dedicated to improving the lives of children and young people in Norfolk and have evidence that we are making real progress in a number of areas to transform the way services to families and children are delivered in the county.

"Ofsted's ruling is disappointing but we will not let it detract from our determination to improve the opportunities and outcomes for all of Norfolk's children. That work is already in hand."

She added that the department was rated "good" for its work keeping children safe, healthy and able to make a positive contribution.

And she said there were "many positives", including a recently-developed teenage pregnancy action plan, and the imminent appointment of three new primary school advisory staff to reduce the number of schools needing special measures.

"I fully expect the improvement work we are doing to pay dividends in our ratings for next year and I am clear that our focus needs to continue to be on the service we deliver."

Mervyn Scutter, Liberal Democrat children's services spokesman, said: "I hope the administration and children's services take this report seriously and have a good hard look at themselves to remedy the problems."

The departments are rated on different scales. Children's services can be rated outstanding (four stars), good (three), adequate (two) or poor (one).

Adult social services can be rated excellent (three stars), good (two), adequate (one) or inadequate (zero).

Chris Mowle, cabinet member for adult social services, welcomed the CSCI two-star rating, which came with a verdict that there were "promising prospects for further improvement".

He said: "We know that we came within a whisker of a third star, which is a great tribute to all our staff. What is more important is we are continuing to serve Norfolk people well, and are determined to maintain the strong improvement of recent years," he said.

"I am particularly pleased that the commission described our staffing strategy as 'excellent, well funded and providing the training for skilled workforce'."

A county council spokesman said the imminent overall drop from four to three stars was "disappointing", but added: "We continue to offer excellent services in many areas and will continue to strive for improvements across all of our services."

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