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Ofsted releases Annual Performance Assessments 2008

Ofsted published the results of the 2008 Annual Performance Assessments (APAs) yesterday, providing a performance overview of local authorities across England in relation to children’s services, including education, social care and health.

Its evaluations are compiled from a local council’s self assessment and performance data, along with the views of the local Government Office and assessments by the Youth Justice Board and Healthcare Commission briefings. Key data is also drawn from local inspections and Joint Area Reviews, and the work of the Local Safeguarding Children Board.

Out of the 147 local councils, 73 per cent were judged good or outstanding in the contribution they make to improving services overall for children and young people. Although this is down from 78 per cent last year, it still confirms the good work of the vast majority of English councils in improving outcomes for children.

Gateshead Children Services is on such council that achieved top marks from the government inspectors. It scored an ‘outstanding’ rating in every single category. This included: Overall effectiveness of children’s services, being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and achieving economic well-being.

According to the report: "Gateshead has one of the best levels of improvement in England across a wide range of service areas. Well developed strategic partnerships and Children’s Trust arrangements, with clear leadership by Children’s Services, continue to develop highly effective area partnerships and multi-agency working."

Councillor Catherine Donovan, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Gateshead Council, said: "We really value the quality of our services for children and young people and to have them recognised in this way is excellent news.

"In Gateshead we have a really effective approach to development, which takes in everything from good health to keeping our young people safe.

"This is even more evidence of the outstanding services we offer young people across the borough. We will strive to improve this service even more in the future but the staff who work so hard in this area should be praised for their achievements."

Ofsted, however, also found four councils to be inadequate overall this year, which is a concern because none were deemed inadequate in 2007. Eight have also been judged as inadequate for the ‘staying safe’ outcome area, which is double the four last year.

Ms Gilbert stressed her concern "that some services provided for the most vulnerable children and young people remain inadequate. Where this has been found in the APA, we have clearly identified where improvements are needed.

"We would expect those working in children’s services to address these issues as an urgent priority with support from their local Government Office. We will be inspecting next year to ensure they make good progress."

She concluded: "These APAs provide a snap-shot of how well local authority children’s services – including education, social care and health – performed in 2007/08 and they are useful to identify trends and highlight issues that local authorities need to address. However, we recognise that data alone cannot provide a full enough picture of performance and local authorities should use the APA reports to improve practice on the ground.

"For those judged to be good or even outstanding, whilst this reflects that overall services are working well, it does not mean that things are perfect. One of the features of outstanding provision is the drive for greater improvement. I would call on all local authorities, whatever their grade, to use their APA reports to drive up standards."

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