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Looking back at Medway's children's services in 2017

21 December 2017

As the year draws to a close, Medway Council’s portfolio holders covering children’s services take a look back at the events and achievements of 2017, as well as what the year ahead will bring.

One of Medway Council’s key priorities is ensuring the best start in life for young people. 2017 has been another very busy year for the teams involved in providing services to ensure all of Medway’s children can achieve their best potential, no matter what their background. Cllr Andrew Mackness, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, and Cllr Martin Potter, Portfolio Holder for Educational Attainment and Improvement, reflect on the past year for education, social care and community support. 

Examination results have shown great improvements, with Medway being placed as the eighth top local authority in England for key stage 1 writing. The results also showed that more children were reaching the expected standard in reading and mathematics. This year’s Medway Test results were also positive with 1,494 children being assessed as eligible to attend a Medway grammar school – more than half of these were Medway children.

Significant improvements in Medway's schools

Cllr Martin Potter, Portfolio Holder for Educational Attainment and Improvement, said: "It is pleasing to see that results are continuing to improve in Medway and I am encouraged that we will see the same trend next year. This year's examination results are a testament to the teachers' dedication to finding innovative and engaging ways to help teach young pupils. Although it's important children work hard towards their exams, it's also vital they continue to have fun and have the opportunity to develop a range of skills while learning at school."

Ofsted results also remain of a high standard, with many primary and secondary schools achieving good or outstanding reports this year - 84.9 per cent of primary schools and 82.4% of secondary schools were judged as good or outstanding. Cllr Potter added: “It is really pleasing to see the majority of schools in Medway are achieving the highest Ofsted ratings. Medway offers children of all academic abilities, as well as those with extra-curricular interests from sports to technology, the opportunity to develop their skills and become successful young adults. However, we also recognise that some schools require further improvements and we will be working closely with them in 2018 to help raise standards. We will also continue to challenge academy trusts and the Regional Schools Commissioner to ensure the best outcomes are delivered for Medway children. I’d like to make a special mention to Luton Junior School and The Victory Academy which were rated outstanding by Ofsted – well done to everyone involved.”

Supporting the most vulnerable children and families in our community

Medway Council supports children from all backgrounds, but particularly those most in need. This year the unitary authority created a unique partnership with Kent County Council and London Borough of Bexley to benefit the most vulnerable children in the south-east. The three councils have now joined forces to start a regional adoption service to offer more opportunities for both the children and prospective adopters.

Cllr Andrew Mackness, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, said: “By pooling resources we give children a better chance of finding their forever family. The regional adoption service provides a larger group of adoptive parents, meaning there is more chance of a successful adoption. It could also help reduce the amount of time children spend in the foster care system and improve outcomes for our most vulnerable young people.”

Another key priority for the council is ensuring support is provided to children who find themselves in the care system. Cllr Mackness added: “We have been working hard to promote the rewarding role of a foster carer and it is pleasing that more people have come forward and offered a stable home for a vulnerable child. Of no fault of their own, a number of children each year find themselves needing another family to temporarily live with and support them through the difficult time. We will continue to work on ways we can support our most vulnerable children and young people during and after leaving the care system. We are particularly pleased that this year we had a record number of young people leaving care and going on to study at university.”

A look at the year ahead

Earlier this year Medway Council had to explore new ways to support Medway’s young families due to changes in government funding arrangements for early years’ provision and the ongoing requirement to reduce its own budgets. A comprehensive six-week consultation was held and the council used the public’s feedback to redesign the model for early childhood services to ensure support was targeted to the most vulnerable children and families.

Cllr Mackness said: “As the new year approaches, we’re getting ready to open the four children and family hubs and nine children and family wellbeing centres across Medway. The wellbeing centres will deliver universal health services and the four hubs will provide a one-stop shop for multi-agency support. Medway’s children and families are at the heart of everything we do and we have also arranged for outreach work to be provided in the community and in people’s own homes.”

Medway Council also provides support to children and young people with special educational needs, and recently received £1.3million of government funding to expand the service offered. Speaking about the funding, Cllr Mackness said: “This is great news for Medway. Although we already help young people who need extra support throughout their education, the funding will provide more opportunities and school places much closer to home. It is important we continue to meet individual’s needs and provide the most appropriate support to help them develop into independent, young adults.”

In a joint statement, Cllr Mackness and Cllr Potter said: “We’d both like to thank Medway Council staff and our colleagues in partner agencies who, thanks to their compassion and dedication, provide a first class service to families in Medway. We remain committed to providing opportunities and support to everyone living in Medway and, despite a challenging financial climate, we will do all we can to ensure that the services most important to communities continue to be delivered efficiently.”