Child registrations double after children’s centres transferred away from Norfolk County Council

A new sure start childrens centre, nursery and base for children with special educational needs offi

A new sure start childrens centre, nursery and base for children with special educational needs officially opened in Long Stratton in 2011. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

The proportion of children registered at Norfolk's children's centres has nearly doubled since they were transferred away from Norfolk County Council control.

The county has 53 separate children's centres, where youngsters aged up to four, and their families, can receive services such as integrated early education and childcare, support for families, child and family health services, and help for parents seeking work.

In 2011, they were commissioned out in what the council described as the most complex procurement it had conducted, saving an estimated £2.7m until the end of March 2016.

According to figures in the first annual report into Norfolk's children's centres, which was discussed by councillors yesterday, the proportion of children registered was more than 76pc as of March 2014, compared to about 40pc in April 2012 when the transition to the new arrangements began.

The report also showed that, of the centres which have so far been inspected by Ofsted, three were judged 'outstanding', 23 were 'good', 11 were given a 'requires improvement' rating, and only one was deemed to be 'inadequate'.

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The report outlined a number of challenges which are still facing the service, as the council starts the retendering process ahead of 2016.

It said that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups seem to be 'not well served' by children's centres, as were those with English as a second language.

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Fathers and male carers, and families with a pregnant teenager, were also highlighted as groups receiving a poor service.

Sheila Lock, the council's interim director of children's services, told councillors the council is held accountable for the performance of the children's centres.

She said if there were problems with any centres, the council would ask 'fundamental questions' ahead of reprocurement.

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