Ofsted spotlights children’s home good practice

Children’s homes with committed staff and an emphasis on listening to feedback from residents excel at improving outcomes for looked-after children, an Ofsted report has found.

The report highlights good practice in 12 outstanding children’s homes, in a bid to help other residential care providers improve.

This is because standards in the children’s homes sector are notoriously susceptible to change — of the 1,439 children’s homes inspected by Ofsted, only 35 have been judged outstanding for the past three consecutive years.

Ofsted found that all 12 outstanding homes had highly effective leadership. Managers were visible, inclusive and interacted frequently with staff and young people.

The report also found that continuity of staffing was essential to help children develop meaningful and lasting attachments to adults.

But the report said that the “defining hallmark of quality” was the importance homes place on the experience of looked-after children. One outstanding home manager explained: “Young people are our most important inspectors.”

A young resident added: “Staff always ask young people about their views on life in the home. We are always being consulted about all sorts of things – trips, visits, holidays.”

Managers and staff in all the homes visited had high expectations for children in their care and actively saw building young people’s aspirations as an intrinsic part of their role. Education was also a high priority.

Ofsted is now calling on the Department for Education to consider systematic ways in which the experience and skills of leaders in consistently outstanding children’s homes could be used to improve standards across the residential care sector.

The watchdog also wants local authorities to analyse and track how well individual children’s homes are doing so they can use this information when making placements and commissioning services.

Christine Gilbert, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said the report shows that it is possible for children’s homes to provide the very best care for children year after year.

She added that it is essential for other providers to learn from the outstanding practice the report highlights.

“Young people living in children’s homes are some of the most vulnerable in the country and it is important that the care they receive is of a consistently high standard,” she explained. “However, inspection shows that too many establishments fluctuate in quality from one year to the next.”

Gilbert emphasised the importance of appointing and developing the right staff in children’s homes.

“Good staff have such an impact,” she said. “They establish good relationships with the children and young people in their care, have the highest expectations of them and do all they can to support their development and their confidence. It is important we give recognition to the managers and staff in these outstanding children’s homes for all their hard work and commitment.”