SALT Way Children’s Centre, one of those to survive closure following Swindon Council’s budget cuts, has been judged inadequate in its first inspection – Ofsted’s lowest rating.
The Pearl Road centre, in Middleleaze, was inspected on November 27 and 28 by two Ofsted representatives, who gave it the lowest rating for all three categories.
The centre is managed by the Children’s Society on behalf of Swindon Council. Reduced funding from the council has meant the centre is in the process of merging with three other centres, Eldene, Croft and Robert Le Kyng under one leader, on two sites, by next Monday.
In its summary of the centre’s inadequate leadership and governance, inspectors said: “Budget reductions and the resulting merger of the four centres have meant that valuable time has been taken up with the organisation that this requires.
“In the past, lack of data and limited understanding of how to use it, together with the increased work load caused by a shrinking budget, a reduced workforce and the merger of the four centres, have slowed progress in meeting the needs of the families in the area.
“Staff are dedicated, morale is high, and staff work hard to improve the life chances for those who attend the centre.
“However, without a plan, the direction and pace of improvement have lost momentum. “Responsibilities are changing as the centres merge and this has caused a lack of continuity, which has again slowed the rate of improvement.”
In response, Damian Allen, the director of children and families at The Children’s Society, said: “The merger and operating with a tighter budget was always going to be a challenge.
“Clearly, there are some big challenges to address. We will be working with the council, parents and local partners so we can take the steps necessary to ensure Salt Way is better serving more local families.
“Work has begun on a draft plan, and we’ll be working closely with the council and others to help deliver this.”
Coun Fionuala Foley (Con, Chiseldon & Lawn), the cabinet member for children’s services, said: “I would say I am very saddened by the Ofsted judgement.
“This is not an issue about budgets. It’s about all the centres: Are there problems in the others, where there have also been cuts? No there aren’t.
“I don’t believe this report makes the children more vulnerable going into the future. They have a very large budget at Salt Way and I don’t believe that cuts should be a sign these failings will occur elsewhere.
“The Children’s Society, as a whole, need to look at how they look after their staff.”