Hertfordshire is retaining 82 children’s centres – in spite of a reduced budget – by recommissioning, grouping centres and reducing the number of lead agencies. This is good news for schools as well as children, families and Early Years settings because the early intervention and support facilitated by the centres is increasing the proportion of children ‘ready for school’.
This reorganisation means that all families with young children can still access a centre locally, and additional support will be readily available to those in greatest need. Children’s centres will work even more closely with others who deliver services for young children and their families such as GPs, schools, health visitors and midwives.
Megan Wilcox, Herts for Learning Early Years Adviser and Children’s Centre Lead, has been working closely over the past nine months with Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) and Hertfordshire Public Health to prepare for the recommissioning.
The new groupings will allow centres to collaborate to offer a wider range of services to their families. Centres will gather and use data collectively (for example on new births in their area), and will share local knowledge gained over the past seven years. In Hertfordshire, smaller groups have been formed than in other local authorities (around two to four children’s centres per group), so the offer remains local for each family.
HfL is commissioned by HCC to secure overall effectiveness and promote quality improvement. The current quality profile of centres in Hertfordshire is well above the national profile, with 75% of inspections at least good compared to less than 67% nationally. HfL and HCC are confident that the reorganisation period can be managed with minimal disruption to services for Hertfordshire’s families.
The new lead agency contracts will be monitored by HfL children’s centre improvement partners (CCHIPs) and HCC Childhood Support Services officers, building upon the robust systems already established and recognised as exemplary by Ofsted: “The local authority reviews the centres’ performance termly, and the challenging targets and insightful advice have been instrumental in bringing improvement” and “Working closely with a skilled local authority improvement partner has helped the centre undergo a successful period of rapid development in the last year.”
Teams from HfL and HCC will be on hand to support centres through the changes. In HfL the Schools HR team will be working to support lead agencies with the TUPE process and restructuring of centre teams; the Financial Services for Schools (FSS) team will be supporting budget planning for schools that are lead agencies; and School IT Systems Support (SITSS) will be supporting the database and IT solutions.
The HfL Early Years team will be providing workshops on managing change, delivered locally on request from children’s centres. These follow a recent successful children’s centre worker conference. A ten week future leaders training programme is also being run to support children’s centre managers to adapt to change and develop their systems further.
For more information about managing change workshops please contact Caroline Chalke: firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to this HfL training, the normal range of children’s centre CPD will continue alongside extra communication briefings for new and former lead agencies and staff.
The CCHIP team includes: Megan Wilcox, Caroline Chalke, Lucy Chadwick, Lucy Connolly, Deborah Godbold, Gill Grainger, Lucky Khera, Mireille Macraild and Susan Tanton.
For more information about groupings see: