1. ITV Report

Ofsted finds Somerset's vulnerable children are being let down

The Ofsted inspection found that vulnerable children and families in Somerset are being let down Photo: PA

Ofsted's first ever inspection of the whole range of children's services in Somerset has found that too many of them are inadequate.

The education watchdog found that while education standards are improving, Somerset County Council is not providing good enough support for vulnerable children.

None of the four children's homes inspected were judged good or better. Two children's centres serving 13,500 children under five were judged inadequate.

Two of Somerset's Children's Centres were judged inadequate by Ofsted Credit: PA

39 inspections of schools and special schools, pupil referral units, children's homes, children's centres and nurseries took place between 8 September and 3 October.

  • A third were judged less than good
  • Six places were judged inadequate
  • A fifth of schools inspected require improvement
  • No maintained schools were judged inadequate

One of the really sad things that we found is that two of the four children's homes which we looked at - and they're homes that look after looked-after children, those youngsters in the care of the local authority - were inadequate.

We looked at a number of children's centres and we looked at provision for 13,500 children - that's the number of children whose lives are touched by those children's centres and both those centres were inadequate.

So really quite shocking statistics in terms of the number of children who are not getting what they need

– Bradley Simmons, Ofsted Regional Director

The investigations also uncovered a number of strengths.

  • Most primary and secondary pupils achieved well in all key stages
  • Use of school-to-school support in primary schools is successful
  • Pupils in care and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are making improved progress
  • In Further Education, young people who are behind are catching up because of good support and close monitoring

Ofsted recommends that the council should have clearer strategic direction and management oversight where its children's homes are concerned.

It also needs to make secure arrangements for the safety and welfare of all children living in the county, including providing advice about safeguarding and child protection concerns to schools.

Somerset County Council headquarters in Taunton Credit: ITV News

Somerset County Council has responded to the findings of the report.

It says it had already decided to close both of the Children's Homes judged to be inadequate before the inspection took place and is working intensively with the Children's Centres featured in the report to make improvements.

Everyone knows much improvement is needed urgently in many areas, but it’s important also to recognise the positives. We have put a lot of effort into supporting improvements in primary schools and that is making a difference for children.

85% of Primary and Secondary schools in Somerset are now judged to be Good or Outstanding compared to the national average of 80%, and that is something that everyone involved in education can take heart from.

– Councillor Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services