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Staffordshire County Council

VULNERABLE children in Staffordshire are very well protected, according to the latest Ofsted inspection of children’s services.

For the second inspection in a row Staffordshire County Council’s services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers are all rated as ‘Good’ in every category, with no areas needing urgent improvement.

The report says: “The senior leadership team, chief executive and elected members have maintained an uncompromising focus on strengthening services for children in Staffordshire.”

The inspection was a pilot for the new Ofsted regime to be introduced for all local authorities in England from early next year.

Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, said:

“The new form of inspection focuses on what actually happens to those who need our help and support and I’m delighted to say we’re making a real difference where it matters.

“I’m also pleased that Ofsted recognises the quality of the preventative work with families where there are children at risk of coming into the care system – it’s better for everyone if we can prevent problems escalating and help children stay with their families.”

The report notes much of the success of the Families First service is linked to the sustained investment in staff development and good working conditions.

Mark Sutton added:

“By providing clear management, good training and support, we have a low staff turnover which means we can develop and maintain high standards across the service.

“Most importantly it means children can build up a long term relationship with one social worker who understands their needs and can help them achieve their ambitions.”

Among the findings, Ofsted also praised:

  • Children are placed with carers who meet their needs;
  • Good support for carers;
  • Stability of children’s placements with carers is good;
  • Disabled children benefit from high quality support;
  • Children in care are making progress in education;
  • The quality of adoption work is good.

Staffordshire County Council is one of only two authorities in the West Midlands to be ranked as ‘Good’ and is in the top third of authorities nationally.

Mark Sutton said:

This is an outstanding performance by a team of dedicated professionals, who are working very hard to change people’s lives.”

childcare 30 hours

THOUSANDS of Staffordshire parents entitled to 30 hours a week funded childcare for their three and four-year-olds have only days left to register for it.

Applications via the government’s website must be made by the end of August, or parents will have to wait until January to claim their hours.

To be eligible both parents, or the parent in a single-parent family, must earn the equivalent of at least 16 hours a week at the national minimum wage, or living wage.

Parents can check if they qualify and sign up for the scheme at www.childcarechoices.gov.uk but they must do so by August 31.

Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said:

Staffordshire was one of a few places to run a trial last year where the number of funded hours was increased from 15 to 30 and the difference it made was remarkable.

It put money in families’ pockets by either saving on fees, or by allowing a parent to go out to work, or it simply improved people’s work-life balance.

Now it’s being rolled out across the country, but people have to register by the end of August and it would be a shame for them to lose out simply because they’ve left it too late.”

Depending on take-up, it’s estimated the parents of around 7,000 children in Staffordshire could be entitled to the childcare which can be used during term time, or more flexibly over the year.

But as of August 12, only 56 per cent of those eligible in Staffordshire have so far applied.

Those who have already registered and been allocated a code are being encouraged to contact their childcare providers to make arrangements as soon as possible.

In Staffordshire 96 per cent of pre-school places are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Mark Sutton added:

There are millions of hours of high quality funded childcare still waiting to be claimed.

The take-up rate in Staffordshire is better than in many places, but I’d urge parents to check now if they’re eligible and, if they are, sign up straight away.”

CHILDREN from in and around Tamworth had a glorious time at the town’s shopping centre last week, as Ankerside in Bloom returned for another free day of garden-themed fun and games.

On Wednesday 16, August, Ankerside Shopping Centre’s gardening experts Blooming Flora, and Duggie returned to the centre for its second session of the summer with everything from singalongs to flower garland making and a garden swing for photographs.

Throughout the day, the fun-filled characters gathered groups of Tamworth children to create Ankerside’s very own floral choir – learning fun nature songs and making sounds of creatures in the garden. Plus, little ones also had the chance to make a paper flower headdress and garland to take home.

Jeff Wigley, Ankerside Shopping Centre manager, said Ankerside in Bloom was a huge hit with the children of Tamworth. “This is the second of three children’s events we are hosting this summer, and we were so pleased to see so many families enjoying the outdoor-themed activities.

“Throughout the day, children met our gardening experts, Blooming Flora and Duggie to learn all about their love of the outdoors,” he said. “They saw how a garden grows and joined the floral choir to fill the Ankerside Garden with song. Plus, once the singalong had finished they had the chance to make their very own paper flower headdress and garland.

“Next week the summer fun will continue at Ankerside with another visit from Tamworth LitFest and Community Together,” Jeff added. “Ankerside in Bloom will return to the centre on Wednesday, 30 August for their final session where children will learn all about country dancing, play games of musical flowers and make paper flower collages.

childcare 30 hours

AROUND eight million hours of funded childcare for three and four-year-olds are set to be available for working parents in Staffordshire.

The Government says the launch of the 30 hours’ free childcare on September 1 will help thousands of eligible parents across the county.

The offer of increased hours from 15 to 30 hours was trialled in Staffordshire last year and is now being rolled out nationally.

Parents are being reminded that they need to check if they qualify and sign up for the scheme in advance at www.childcarechoices.gov.uk  to secure the 30 hours.

Speech Bubble, Tamworth InformedMark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “The trial scheme showed what a huge difference these extra hours of childcare can make to people’s lives.

“For some families it puts more money in their pockets by either saving on fees, or allowing a parent to go out to work, or it simply makes a massive improvement to their work-life balance.

“At the same time the feedback from employers was that those benefiting seemed happier and more settled knowing that their childcare was sorted.

“We are encouraging parents to find out more and sign up if they qualify, before the offer goes live on September 1.”

Depending on take-up, it’s estimated the parents of around 7,000 children in Staffordshire could be entitled to the childcare which can be used during term time, or more flexibly over the year.

To be eligible both parents, or the parent in a single-parent family, must earn the equivalent of at least 16 hours a week at the national minimum wage, or living wage.

In Staffordshire 96 per cent of pre-school places in are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Mark Sutton added: “These extra hours of high quality childcare help children get the best start before they arrive at school – they’re fantastic for children and parents and helps businesses recruit and retain staff.”

Ankerside store frontage

STAY & PLAY will be returning to Ankerside Shopping Centre next Thursday for a fantastic morning of free friendship-themed fun and games.

Michelle Gardner and her niece Elle Bird, 1, decorating her play journal at the launch of Stay and Play in April.

Michelle Gardner and her niece Elle Bird, 1, decorating her play journal at the launch of Stay and Play in April.

With World Friendship Day just around the corner, Stay & Play will return on Thursday, 27 July, where little ones will have the chance to make friendship bracelets and decorate cut outs of their best friend.

Alongside all the friendship fun, children along with mums, dads and grandparents will also be able to enjoy inflatables, a bubble machine and a visit from Ankerside’s colourful monster between 9.30am and 11.30am.

Jeff Wigley, Ankerside Shopping Centre manager, said he is looking forward to celebrating World Friendship Day at the centre’s monthly Stay & Play. “The response to the launch of Stay & Play in April has been brilliant and we can’t wait to welcome it back next week,” he said.

“Throughout the morning, little ones will have the chance to get crafty with friendship bracelets and best friend cut outs. Plus, some of our regular guests will be heading off to primary school at the end of summer, so we will be hosting a mini graduation ceremony for them.

“Thursday is also a chance for children to fill in their learning books that they bring along to each event and it’s a great little memento for parents, especially for those who are going off to school in September.

“We hope everyone has a lovely time at our Stay & Play morning next week and we can’t wait to see the children creating bracelets for their best friends.”

The Stay & Play fun takes place from 9.30am to 11.30am in Druckers Café on the last Thursday of each month and is free for anyone looking after children to attend with the little ones.

summer play scheme 2017

CHILDREN aged five and over are being encouraged to sign up to take part in an exciting programme of free sport this summer.

Tamworth Borough Council’s Sports Development Team has unveiled its brand new programme of sporting events, ‘Playscheme 2017’, which will run throughout the school summer holiday.

The five-week scheme starts on July 31and runs until September 1, with a wide range of activities for children aged five and upwards. The great news is all activities will be completely free of charge.

The varied programme is guaranteed to have something on offer for all abilities and interests, including swimming, boxing, cycling and tennis. In addition, and new for this year, there will be a range of more unusual activities including wakeboarding, jump Xtreme and the castle adventure golf.

Last year’s new addition to activities, futsal and gymnastics, will also return by popular demand, making the new programme full of fun activities to try.

Activities take place across the borough, with venues at the Castle Grounds, Tamworth Boxing Club, Wilnecote Leisure Centre, Planters Garden Centre, Cliff Lakes, the SnowDome, Tamworth Olympic Gymnastics Club, Jump Xtreme in Wilnecote and Tamworth Namco Funscape bowling alley.

Speech Bubble, Tamworth InformedCllr Joy Goodall, Cabinet member for Environment & Culture, said: ““These activities are always a huge success and are very popular, so I would encourage children and parents to sign up as soon as possible so that they don’t miss out.

“We have been working with sports clubs from across the borough to put together the summer programme, which means we can offer a wide range of events for the five-week break.

“We hope that children and young people from across Tamworth will find the new programme exciting and sign up to try something they may not have tried before”.

Details of all the events can be seen on the Tamworth Borough Council website at www.tamworth.gov.uk. Bookings are being taken from Monday 10th July.

To get involved or for more information, please contact James Hazlehurst from Tamworth Borough Council’s Sports Development team on 01827 709387 or email james-hazlehurst@tamworth.gov.uk

the event timetable

child with abacus

HUNDREDS of parents will benefit this week as the new 30 hours’ free childcare scheme begins in Staffordshire.

The county council has 415 places of 30 hours’ free childcare for three and four-year-olds to allocate after the authority successfully bid earlier this year to host one of eight national trial schemes.

Key to the bid’s success was the council’s approach to working with employers, which the government wants to learn from before the 30 hours’ childcare offer is made available nationally in September 2017.

Ben Adams, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Learning and Skills, said: Thanks to our success in attracting the trial a year before it’s unveiled in the rest of the country, this initiative will make a real difference to hundreds of families – it will help them find extra work, or if they already work full time it will put money in their pockets.”

The county council approached some of the largest employers in Staffordshire to work together on the trial.

Those employers currently taking part include Briggs Equipment, Cannock; SAI Automotive/Faurecia, Fradley; Molson Coors, Burton; the Argos distribution centre at Acton Gate, near Stafford; the Asda stores at Stafford and Tamworth; Perkins, Stafford; Florette, Fradley; every Tesco store and distribution centre in Staffordshire; Wincanton B&Q distribution centre at Branston; Wincanton (Screwfix) Stafford; Ornua Foods, Leek; and several companies from Staffordshire Technology Park, Stafford.

Ben Adams said: Ninety-two per cent of pre-school places in Staffordshire are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, so these hours of extra childcare are a fantastic benefit to the children and their parents and helps businesses retain and recruit staff.”

More information about the scheme is available from www.staffordshire.gov.uk/30hour


Police Cadets in Tamworth are going on the front foot in the fight against Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

Cadets at all units have taken part in interactive training over a two-week period by Staffordshire Police’s Prevent CSE Team. The awareness sessions looked at how to spot the signs of CSE, its effects, the law, and where to go to for help. They also included discussions about how to stay safe online and the dangers of ‘sexting’.

The Staffordshire Police Cadet Service was launched by Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis to strengthen links between the police and young people and promote good citizenship. Successful Cadet units, for youngsters aged 14 to 17, have been launched in Stafford, Cannock, Burslem, Tamworth, Longton and Codsall.

All units have taken part in the CSE training and a number of Cadets are set to become CSE ‘champions’ to help raise awareness among their peers.

Mr Ellis said: “Sexual exploitation wrecks children’s lives, but it’s not always an easy thing to spot – unless you know what to look for.

“By taking part in these sessions, Staffordshire Police Cadets will have a much greater awareness of CSE and be able to spread the word to their peers about its dangers.

“The Police Cadet Service has had a positive influence on the lives of many young people in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent – some from challenging backgrounds. It’s all about giving advantages to young people by allowing them to gain valuable life skills and training in areas like this.”

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity.

Know about CSE

Earlier this year, we told you about the ‘Know About CSE’ campaign that was launched in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. It called on parents, children, organisations and schools to unite in tackling CSE. It aimed to raise awareness and understanding of the issue, how to spot the signs and how to report it.

It also saw the creation of a new website, www.knowaboutcse.co.uk. This has information and advice for parents and children along with useful tools, videos and tips.

Meanwhile, businesses are being invited to become Patrons or Sponsors to help fund uniforms and equipment for the Cadets. In return for becoming a Patron, businesses’ contributions are recognised through publicity, a framed certificate and other opportunities. For more details on Cadets and the patronage scheme visit www.staffordfshire-pcc/gov.uk/police-cadets


SCORES of youngsters are set to line up for the start of the IRONKIDS challenge in the summer.

More than 300 children have already signed up – and the good news is that there is still time to enter the junior event of Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, June 11 and will once again return to the Shugborough Estate for the races. The competition is open to children aged between three and 15 and will involve running between 500 metres and 2.5 kilometres.

Kevin Stewart, Managing Director of IRONMAN UK & Ireland, said: “The IRONKIDS events are always hugely popular and really do help ensure that IRONMAN is a family affair for all ages and abilities to enjoy.

“Entries are still open and this year there will also be reduced parking charges at the estate to make it more affordable for families to come along and cheer on the children taking part.”

Mark Winnington,  Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Environment & Transport, said: “Attracting a world-famous sporting event like IRONMAN is great news for Staffordshire’s economy, tourism and local communities and we want people, young and old, to be part of this fantastic sporting weekend.

“While IRONKIDS might not be as challenging as the main event, it is a great opportunity for more families to sign up to keep fit and healthy together.”

Families can find out more about taking part in the event at IRONKIDS Staffordshire

Drayton Manor child board, Tamworth Informed

CALLING all budding business leaders and entrepreneurs, could you be one of Drayton Manors new Child Directors?

If you think you have the next Sir Alan Sugar in your midst, a young Deborah Meaden or a budding Richard Branson in the making, Drayton Manor Park is looking for you as it launches its hunt to find eight new child directors for its board, where they can hone their skills for later in life to take over the world!

As the family who own and run the park take a back seat for the season, they want the child directors to really get involved in helping to shape the future of the park, which has mass appeal with families.

Each board member will not only receive a season pass meaning they can visit the attraction as often as they like during 2016 and take advantage of discounts and vouchers, but they’ll also be involved with making some important decisions on how to make their theme park experience extra special. This might include what flavour ice cream to serve in catering outlets, what new 4D cinema film would they show and if they could come up with a new ride, what might this be?

Suitable candidates need to be aged between five and eight years of age and will also need to be good communicators – little chatterboxes should definitely apply, headstrong, and confident in their decision making abilities.

To apply, just create a 60 second video explaining your favourite thing about coming to Drayton Manor, what three things you would have on your wish list to make your day extra special and how your friends and family would describe you. Potential candidates have until 23.59am on Sunday 15th May 2016 to apply and candidates need to upload this onto the Drayton Manor Park website.

Once the video has been uploaded, applicants are encouraged to share it through social media with friends and family to vote for their favourite applicant. The videos with the highest number of votes will be entered into the park’s top 20 entries.

William Bryan, Managing Director of Drayton Manor Park, will work with the other existing Board of Director members to select which eight children will then be hired for the season. The prize includes a special gold name badge and a Season Pass giving unlimited access to the park, friends and family passes and discounts to retail and catering outlets.

William said: “Our theme park is designed for families so what better way to understand what kids want than to put them at the heart of our board! We’re really looking forward to seeing all of the entries and can’t wait to see what ideas the children have for the future of the park.”

To upload a video and apply please visit the Drayton Manor Park website page here: http://kidztakeover.draytonmanor.co.uk/

To book tickets, or for more information about the park, visit www.draytonmanor.co.uk or call 0844 472 1950. Reduced prices are available for tickets bought in advance. For regular updates and news about Drayton Manor Theme Park join it on Twitter www.twitter.com/Draytonmanor and Facebookwww.facebook.com/DraytonManorPark

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