Northumberland Peer Challenge Debbie Barnes Steph Douglas Lyn Challender
Strengths There is a clear vision which is understood and supported by staff that integrated service delivery will improve early years outcomes Strong political leadership with commitment to driving improvement through appropriate challenge and understanding of communities The DCS has created a culture which is supportive , challenging and open The Early Years Service is good with some outstanding projects for example Knowledge Transfer Partnership/ Connected Northumberland / Graduate Leader Programme Ambition is obvious at all levels of the service There are highly skilled and professional managers demonstrating good leadership Excellent and highly motivated staff who are loyal to Northumberland and committed to supporting families
Strengths There are a range of systems at locality level which support integrated working – examples TAC / Early Intervention Panels/ Sharing Health information at 27 month check/ inclusion toolkit Performance management and data analysis is outstanding eg children centre scorecards The service has a good understanding of its strengths and areas for development Strong health service which is strategically and operationally aligned to Children Services
Hypotheses Through a range of quality assurance systems and processes we provide a good level of challenge and support to all early years providers and we believe this delivers good outcomes for children in Northumberland as evidenced by available data. Quality assurance systems provide challenge. Monitoring and evaluation of performance provides a clear focus on raising quality. Interventions through the SLA need to be more focused on driving improvement across all sectors. A clearly defined offer based on an inverse proportion model would add rigour. At a strategic level, because of the changing education landscape and budget reductions, the Council should consider their policy position on Early Years/ school improvement in the light of academy conversion. There is agreement that the Safeguarding Assurance Toolkit for settings needs to be implemented so NSCB can be assured that providers are safeguarding compliant. Consideration needs to be given to the safeguarding training offer to ensure sufficient availability of courses.
Hypotheses • Through outstanding partnership working we are able to secure a good base of provision, including services in our most challenging and vulnerable communities. Good practice is captured through quality improvement tools such as the inclusion toolkit delivered across wider County teams and partnerships. • The Council has an outstanding partnership with Health colleagues. This can be further strengthened through improved data sharing through a more systematic approach. This would facilitate the earlier and more methodical identification of vulnerable families. • Locality based working is improving the alignment of services. It has supported the achievement of key Local Authority targets and has responded to Children’s Centre objectives, increasing skills and knowledge across the Early Years workforce and improving the quality of childcare provision. • The Inclusion Toolkit is outstanding and is in the preliminary stages of becoming embedded across all services. Further work to secure the use of this system will enhance locality working practices and a cross-agency approach to improving outcomes for children with additional and special educational needs. • Evidence of capacity building is strong. Examples include the creative use of National Strategies Wave 3 ECaT funding and use of Early Years Professionals to deliver training.
Hypotheses • We have successfully overcome the early challenges posed by delivery of the 2 year old entitlement in its pilot and interim phases, and believe that our current good level of support and challenge to our providers gives us a strong basis to ensure that we are able to deliver quality provision for those families that are entitled. We are aware of, and planning for the remaining challenges we face, particularly due to levels of need in our most vulnerable communities and the significant barriers Northumberland faces given its demographic and geographic idiosyncrasies. • Evidence that 2 Year old implementation plan is in place and there is confidence that Northumberland will be able to meet future delivery expectations. • Joint working through the A2YO programme has clearly escalated progress.
Hypotheses • We believe the content and focus of, our quality assurance processes are robust. However, we acknowledge these are still in the process of becoming fully embedded in practice. We are aware that the outcomes gaps for children receiving Free School meals, although reducing, remain too wide. Targeted work, delivered through the SISP policy needs to become more embedded to support narrowing of this gap. Lastly, through recent developments in our practice we have identified the need to further develop our IT support and access for both the public and service providers. • It is recommended that a clear strategy on narrowing the gap is developed across the partnership which clearly identifies who is in the gap and what evidence based interventions should be put in place. • The development of a website for Early Years providers would enable sharing of information and practice.