Three of Medway’s Sure Start centres have been praised highly by Ofsted in their first ever inspections and a Medway day care nursery has been recognised as outstanding.
Bligh Sure Start Children’s Centre in Strood has been rated as outstanding – the first in the country to be awarded this grade since Ofsted introduced a new, significantly tougher inspection regime in May 2013. Its day care centre also received its second successive outstanding rating.

Miers Court Children’s Centre and Deanwood Children’s Centre, both in Rainham, received good gradings from Ofsted. Lead Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Mike O’Brien said: “Congratulations to Bligh, Deanwood and Miers Court children’s centres and Bligh nursery. With well below 50% of children’s centres nationally receiving good or better grades from Ofsted, these ratings are significant achievements. I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to their success, from centre managers and staff to governors and parents.

“For Bligh to be the first children’s centre in the country to receive an outstanding rating, since Ofsted introduced tougher inspections, is particularly impressive.”
Bligh children’s centre and nursery both rated outstanding. Inspectors visited Bligh children’s centre on 25 and 26 June 2013. It rated it as outstanding against all criteria: access to services by young children and families, the quality of practice and services and the effectiveness of leadership, governance and management.

The inspection of the children’s centre found it to be firmly established at the heart of the community with a superb range of high quality services. As a result of carefully planned and tailored activities, the vast majority of families in the reach area are involved with more than one of centre’s services. Outstanding leadership, management and governance has driven rapid improvement over the last three years. Staff and governors were found to be passionate about doing the very best they can for both children and adults and relentless in their pursuit of excellence. Children at the centre make exceptionally good progress and are extremely well prepared for moving on to school.

The centre is particularly successful in engaging with a very large proportion of its targeted groups, especially families from the most deprived areas. Parents are full of praise for the centre and speak very highly of the quality of support and encouragement they receive. Many have become volunteers and the three parents’ forums do an enormous amount to help plan and run services. Ofsted also judged the on-site day care nursery at Bligh children’s centre to be outstanding for the second successive time after an inspection on 20 June 2013.

The nursery, which offers early years care for children aged from three months – including free funded places for eligible two and three year olds – was found to have exceptional leadership and management. Staff show care and concern for all children, valuing individuality and supporting individual needs extensively. Interaction is highly effective with experienced and qualified staff enabling children to make very good progress in their learning and development. Inspectors stated that the environment for children is welcoming and highly stimulating and that staff are exceptionally well qualified and use their experience and knowledge of child development to meet the individual needs of children.

Headteacher of The Bligh Federation, Tina Gobell said: “I’m delighted that staff in both our children’s centre and nursery have been recognised as outstanding by Ofsted.
“I’m particularly proud that inspectors found that our community workers go out of their way to get to know parents and children and quickly gain their trust and that many parents testified to the centre’s excellent impact on their lives and those of their children.”

Deanwood children’s centre rated good, Deanwood Children’s Centre in Rainham, which only opened in 2010, has received a good rating from Ofsted in all areas – access to services by young children and families, the quality of practice and services and the effectiveness of leadership, governance and management. Inspectors visited the children’s centre on 25 and 26 June 2013. The number of families from most target groups who are using this centre or being signposted to neighbouring centres is increasing at a rapid rate. A large majority now make use of the services at Deanwood, with the highest percentage coming from the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods across the reach area. Staff at Deanwood are adept at recognising and reacting to specific needs. Parents are very appreciative of this, with comments such as ‘It really is a remarkable place’ made to inspectors.

Very effective links with health services, and other partners, mean that most families in the reach area are well known. The centre’s effective targeted work and support has been reflected in improving childhood obesity levels, very high immunisation rates and an increasing number of mothers who continue breastfeeding. Children, especially those who are identified as disadvantaged two-year-olds and those who need additional support following their two-and-a-half-year review, make good progress as a result of the staff’s expertise, very effective planning and strong links with partners such as local schools and childcare providers.

Medway Council was found to be very supportive of the centre and proactive in ensuring that significant staff changes have led to positive outcomes for local families, especially for those who need it most.

Miers Court Children’s Centre rated good Ofsted inspectors visited Miers Court Children’s Centre on 9 and 10 July and found it be good across all measures and improving strongly. Inspectors found excellent levels of care, guidance and support, especially for the most vulnerable families or where one-to-one tailored help is needed. Families said that ‘incredibly helpful and supportive’ staff have gained their trust to a great degree. Miers Court staff know families well and successfully inspire them to build their confidence as parents, understand how to lead healthy lives and aspire to extend and make the most of their skills.

The centre has been especially effective in ensuring target children are ready for school. Children who entered the Reception class at Miers Court School, who had accessed the children’s centre, did so with higher on-entry scores than other children.

They are very effective in providing a raft of multi-agency support for the most vulnerable families. Safeguarding families is at the heart of all the centre’s work, as shown by the robust, comprehensive policies and procedures, including e-safety advice for parents. Those deemed to be children in need and looked after children are very well supported.

Medway Council provides high levels of practical support such as training for advisory board and governing body members and in-depth guidance to the headteacher.