This case study describes the process of resurrecting the Early Years and Childcare Strategy in Rutland. The process was supported by the LGA (funded by the DFE), and it engaged a total of 12 LAs in a process to support the best coordination of services, legal compliance and improved outcomes for children and families.
This case study describes the process of resurrecting the Early Years and Childcare Strategy in Rutland. The process was supported by the LGA (funded by the DFE) who recognised through the peer review process that many LAs lack an overarching strategic framework and approach to early years. The support programme engaged a total of 12 LAs in a process to support the best coordination of services, legal compliance and improved outcomes for children and families.
All LAs engaged were offered a series of engagement sessions, presentations, guidance and tools to use locally as well engagement in a facilitated online peer network.
Like many LAs, Rutland has seen a great deal of pressure from reducing resources yet escalating need. As a particularly small local authority Rutland have limited resources and a very small team sitting within the learning and skills service.
There has been an early years strategy for a number of years, however that tended to sit in isolation and therefore the early years agenda did not connect at a strategic level, nor at front line. There had also been some concerns that early years felt a bit like a “bolt-on” service falling off the radar in key discussions.
There was a need to raise the profile of the early years agenda and statutory duties to remain compliant, realise opportunities for efficiencies, contribute to wider agendas such as safeguarding, and above all improve outcomes for children and families.
The Local Authority were invited to take part in a webinar outlining the experience of local authority previously supported by the LGA. From there they were offered support in the form of five days consultancy and a process which had proved successful with previous LAs.
The process of support included:
- Presentations and facilitated conversations with senior managers across agencies and departments to support ownership strategically.
- Engagement sessions supporting providers, service leads and parents/carers.
- A report constructed around the relevant legal duties and local context, providing a series of recommendations for the Local Authority to develop the strategy from.
- A feedback session involving senior leaders in a discussion about next steps.
Throughout the support the Local Authority embraced every step and utilised it to enable much needed “stop the clock’ time to move from reaction to planning.
A number of recommendations were made in the report relating to accountability and reporting, service positioning and structure, culture of working, coproduction and development of services by and for families, inclusion.
Feedback from the lead officer Karen included;
- The profile of Early Years is much higher, we are now on a journey with improved communications and engagement from Elected Members, Chief Executive and Heads of Service interest and buy in.
- The peer review process provided an opportunity to reflect on the offer for children from pre-birth to 5.
- New engagement with Children and Young People’s Partnership and the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy Working Group
- Plans are in place for ‘mystery shoppers’ to provide honest feedback as Service Users.
- To enable a more focused approach to our work, along with the Outcomes, Sufficiency and Information Duties we have drawn on the LGA report recommendations and developed a document which maps current practice under the headings of Working in Partnership, Economic Development, Inclusion and The Education Experience.
- To drive this work forward, the report recommendations were rag rated red, amber and green
- already in place but needed a greater degree of communication within our partnership
- may have been established but not yet fully embedded
- uncertainty as to whether the recommendations were fully established, or not a feasible option and open to further discussion and exploration across our partnership.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The conversations started at a strategic level will be continued to next take key areas of the report recommendations and begin to develop the strategy. Some specific areas of work will also be progressed;
- Engagement with the shaping of Rutland’s Family Hub model and the Best Start for Life programme.
- Commitments to maintaining sufficiency of high-quality early education, this includes a programme of support aimed at further developing sector confidence and capability consistent with the approach to inclusion of children with additional needs within the Universal childcare offer.
- Continue to keep Early Years high on the agenda.
- Awareness of the Ofsted / CQC new inspection framework for inspecting SEND - will test joint working!
Whilst there is a huge amount of pressure on local authorities, and finding the time to effectively “stop the clock” can be difficult, this process has helped share responsibility across a range of agencies and departments.
Strategic ownership from the lead member through to all decision-makers across agencies has been key. And keep maintaining a high profile around the early years agenda with ongoing conversations, regular reporting and feedback throughout and outside of the organisation makes a big difference, particularly where it includes case studies which bring the potential to life.