The good, bad, and ugly for Bedford’s children


With the results of the latest Ofsted annual reports being released, a spotlight is once again shone on the boroughs education and care services. With sub-standard scores in some areas, raising concerns over what the coming budget cuts could bring.

Two reports paint a picture of the experience of young people in Bedford.

The report on children’s services inspection was done between January 23rd and February 16th and involved interviews with Mayor, councilors, staff, partners and young people, as well as looking at 200 case files.

The second, the Ofsted annual schools report, is based on figures from inspections carried out over the 2015/16 period, from state schools across the borough.

For the schools, it was a good year:

  • 94% of schools achieved good or outstanding with 88% the country average.
  • 95% of primary students attended good or outstanding schools, 80% of secondary.
  • Primary schools rated 2nd regionally, 11th
  • Secondary schools rated 7th regionally, 63rd

This comes as validation for the council, after an investment of £48 million into the school capital investment plan, designed to increase pupil places, and improve classrooms.

Peter Pan primary school was one example of the borough’s success story, maintaining its outstanding rating 2 years running.

The results bode well for the new Great Ouse primary academy, set to open in September this year.

Run by Sharnbrook academy federation, who currently have six schools under their umbrella, it looks to provide 420 places for ages 4-11 and 32 FTE preschool places. Catering to families around the King’s Field, St Andrews, and north Bedford area.

Though concerns have been raised over the movement to a two-tiered system the recent results give a strong basis to work on any problems. Former Newnham middle school, now a secondary has had work begin on their new music education hub as the council continues to invest.

The outlook was less rosy for the report on children’s services, with feedback from inspectors determining they, “require improvement to be good.”

In all three key categories: children who need help and protection, children looked after and achieving permanence, and leadership, management, and governance scoring requires improvement.

However, the adoption performance and, Experience and progress of care leavers, were also rated and received a score of good.

Despite the results authorities remain positive, noting the quality of leadership acknowledged by the inspectors, and pleased with the progress since the effort started in 2014 to improve the system.

The local safeguarding children board was another highlight of the inspection, being judged good, and the outcome of looked after children at key stage 4 was among the top in the country.

Mayor Dave Hodgson said he welcomed the report, and pledged a further £3m over the next 3 years to help lighten the caseload of social workers by increasing hires.

The commitment to improving social care is backed up with £1m still going to children’s social care in the latest budget, despite the harsh cuts enforced due to a loss in revenue from the government.

Joshua Jenkins

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