Pinecroft children’s home rated ‘Good’

A Reading children’s home run by Brighter Futures for Children has been rated ‘Good’ following a full Ofsted inspection.

Pinecroft provides care for up to five children with learning or physical disabilities, sensory impairments, or a combination of these.

The inspector awarded a ‘Good’ rating in the three key areas of: Overall experiences and progress of children and young people, how well children and young people are helped and protected and the effectiveness of leaders and managers.

The inspection report published today (25 August) says staff at the home value children as individuals and have built positive and trusting relationships with them.

It continues: “The children have positive experiences moving into the home. The collaborative work between the allocated social worker, parents and education settings mean the children receive support and understanding from well-equipped and prepared staff who can meet their needs.”

The inspector says the children benefit from highly personalised care provided by committed and hard-working staff who understand the needs and vulnerabilities of the children and work diligently to ensure they are catered for.

Staff at Pinecroft are praised for having excellent knowledge and understanding of the children’s vulnerabilities, risks and medical needs. Highly detailed care plans, combined with staff vigilance and awareness, ensure the children are kept safe.

The staff also manage the children’s complex emotional and behavioural needs well and demonstrate a commitment to overcoming difficult and challenging behaviours.

The inspector describes the home manager’s monitoring systems as excellent and demonstrate clear managerial oversight of the home.

The reports says the home’s management and BFfC leaders work in close partnership with a range of professionals and specialist services to safeguard the children and to meet their holistic, emotional and healthcare needs.

It continues: “This approach demonstrates the leaders’ and managers’ dedication to wanting the absolute best care and outcomes for the children.”

The inspector also highlighted improvements to be made, including: ensuring staff use children’s communication aids, methods and devices at all times in accordance with the children’s plans; children benefit from a variety of activities that help their needs and develop interests and skills; and full reports are made within 24 hours of any measure of control, discipline or restraint in relation to a child in the home.

Ofsted carried out the unannounced inspection on 23 and 24 June.

Di Smith, Board Chair at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I would like to congratulate everyone at Pinecroft children’s home for achieving a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating.

“The inspector’s report recognises the hard work and dedication of staff and management at the home, particularly at a time when the pandemic has presented extra challenges.

“Staff are committed to providing the best possible care for the children and young people at Pinecroft and work is already under way to address the areas of improvement raised in the report.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “It is clear from the inspector’s report that children and young people at Pinecroft are well cared for by understanding and diligent staff.

“I am delighted with the recognition of the hard-working care staff who build such trusting relationships with the children and who work closely with parents and other professionals to provide the best possible care and support.

“I would like to thank everyone at Pinecroft for their continued hard work and commitment.”

The full Ofsted report can be found at: https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50168296


GCSE exam results 2021

Students have been receiving their GCSE exam results across Reading today.

For the second consecutive year, the government said that GCSE exams could not be held this summer because of the disruption students faced due to the pandemic.

Instead, teachers were asked to assess the standard of work each student had achieved in their subjects so the school could determine a grade.

Every young person in Reading who has received their results today should feel proud of their achievements in what has been a stressful and uncertain time. And they should take advantage of the support on offer if they are disappointed with their results.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I would like to congratulate all Reading students who received the grades they were hoping for today because it is their hard work throughout the year which has led to their achievement.

“I would encourage any young people who are concerned about their results to contact our expert team at Elevate careers service who can offer advice and support.

“The assessment of pupils’ performance to determine exam results has been one of the many extra challenges our teachers and schools have had to face in the least year. I would like to thank all school staff for their exceptional hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “There has been a great deal of uncertainty for young people over the last year with many missing out on lessons at school and on the support they would normally enjoy from face-to-face contact with classmates, friends and family.

“Students in Reading who received the results they had hoped for today should be feeling proud of their achievements. Any young people who are disappointed with their results should seek advice on the many different options available to them.

“I would like to say thank you to all staff in Reading’s schools for the way they have dealt with so many different challenges in the last year and shown such commitment to the education of our children and young people.”

Young people in Reading can access information, advice and guidance from Brighter Futures for Children’s expert careers advisers if they are disappointed with their exam results. The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

Elevate is also holding a summer networking event next week to give young people a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities. The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning on Thursday 19 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

Young people living in Reading aged 16-19, or up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, can book a place by calling Elevate on 0118 937 3766 or by email to: elevate@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

The Virtual School will be available on results day to support children looked after and care leavers if they require any advice, information or guidance. Please contact Mab Akhter, Virtual School Assistant Headteacher at mab.akhter@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.


Reading AS/A level results 2021

Young people across Reading have been receiving their A-level results this morning (Tuesday 10 August).

As last year, the government decided A-level exams could not be held this summer because of the disruption students faced due to the pandemic.

Instead, teachers were asked to assess the standard of work each student had achieved in their subjects so the school or college could determine a grade.

Young people in Reading who received their results today should be proud of what they have achieved under such difficult circumstances. And they should take advantage of the support on offer if they are disappointed with their results.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “It has been a challenging time for students who have had their education disrupted during a vital period of their school career and I would like to congratulate all those who have achieved the results they were after.

“Any young people who did not receive the grades they hoped for should contact our excellent Elevate careers service to discuss all the options open to them.

“I would like to pay tribute to all school staff in Reading who have worked so tirelessly to support young people throughout the pandemic.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “Young people receiving their A-level results today have experienced an extraordinary 16 months. Those who achieved the grades they wanted should be very proud that their determination and perseverance has paid off.

“Anyone who did not receive the results they had hoped for should not worry as there are so many options open to them and I would urge them to seek the advice and support available.

“I would like to thank all staff in Reading’s schools who have given 100% commitment to educating and support their students throughout the pandemic.”

Young people in Reading can access information, advice and guidance from Brighter Futures for Children’s expert careers advisers if they are concerned about their exam results. The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

Elevate is also holding a summer networking event next week to give young people a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities. The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning on Thursday 19 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

Young people living in Reading aged 16-19, or up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, can book a place by calling Elevate on 0118 937 3766 or by email to: elevate@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

The Virtual School will be available on results day to support children looked after and care leavers if they require any advice, information or guidance. Please contact Mab Akhter, Virtual School Assistant Headteacher, at mab.akhter@brighterfuturesforchildren.org


Keeping teenagers, like Jade, rooted in Reading

Jade first came into care when she was nine years old. She was picked up from school by her social worker and taken to the home of a foster couple, David and Elaine. Jade says:

‘I was scared and I didn’t know what was happening. But they explained it to me and we sat down, ate brownies and watched the football which was nice.’

Jade wasn’t able to go back to her mum and dad so she stayed with David and Elaine for a year and a half. After this, she was matched with a long-term foster carer, Angela, who she was set to stay with until she reaches the age of 18.

‘Angela was really friendly and held a ‘Welcome to the family’ party for me with her sons and lots of cake which was really fun. It wasn’t as scary going to Angela’s as I had met her a few times before while I was still with David and Elaine.’

‘I’m really lucky because I live with Angela, my foster carer, in Reading, which means I’m close to my friends and family. Angela is a good foster carer and I still see my family lots.’

Jade is now 17 and is classed as a ‘care leaver’. That means she is currently working towards building her independent living skills, ready to support herself as an adult. She will be ‘staying put’ with Angela, which means she can stay with her until she’s 21.

Jade says:

‘I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. When I was younger and first came into care, I was really shy. My foster carer helped me learn how to voice my opinions and understand what I wanted. I also used to be scared of speaking in public but now I’m not. I feel a lot more confident today. I finished school, which I found really hard, and I’m now studying at college.’

At Brighter Futures for Children, we’re proud of Jade too. We’re proud of all our young people who work hard, alongside us, to turn their lives around in care. But at the moment, we don’t have enough foster carers in Reading to look after teenagers.

Could you give a teenager like Jade a loving home and a brighter future?

Learn more about fostering in Reading: www.readingfostering.co.uk

Email: foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org

Call: 0118 469 3020


"I'm a foster sibling and I love making a difference"

Isabelle is 18 and has been a foster sibling to many babies and children in care over the past ten years at their Reading home.

Georgia and Sam, Isabelle’s parents, decided they wanted to take up fostering when she was eight and her brothers were 11 and 13. They spoke about how fostering would work for them as a family and started off looking after children under five years old.

Georgia and Sam then agreed they would always try to have children within five years of Isabelle’s age. ‘She was always a very hands on sibling, even back then!,’ they laughed.

So, what was it actually like growing up as a foster sister? Isabelle was happy to explain. ‘We have always loved looking after the children and we make sure we take them on nice days out and set up different activities. I have liked everything about fostering and we work well as a family to help care for the children.’

Brighter Futures for Children runs a fun group for foster siblings called the ‘Foster Squad’ and Isabelle and her two brothers have joined in with their activities. Her parents are active members of Reading Carers’ Link, a support group for Reading’s foster carers, and so they are family friends with the children of lots of other carers too.

Isabelle’s family does short-term, respite and emergency fostering. What was that like as a sibling? ‘We hope they will always feel like part of our family for the duration of their stay and I think this is important,’ Isabelle explained, ‘and we are still in touch with lots of them!’.

Has being a foster sibling influenced Isabelle in her life? It certainly seems so! She says: ‘Fostering gave me lots of skills and experience with children and made me want to work with them. I am now training to be an early years practitioner at a local nursery. I enjoy fostering and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new children over the years and making a difference to their lives.’


"I'm a care leaver, here's my story"

Ben went into care when he was 3, due to mental health in his family meaning he had been neglected as a baby and toddler. He says, ‘When I arrived in care, I was sleeping as it was late. I woke up in the morning, confused, frightened and scared and I woke up screaming because I was in an unfamiliar environment. I was unable to speak and, aged 3, was very much like a baby still.’

Ben quickly settled as his foster carer provided a safe and secure environment for him. He was nurtured as if he was a baby, which helped him to build a bond with his carer and helped him learn how to excel.

Ben has been fortunate to have one foster carer, who has looked after him as a long-term fostering placement since that first night. In his own words, he explains, ‘My relationship with my foster carer is close and strong. I refer to her as aunty. The bond is like a mother and son. I was treated the same as her own daughter, which made me feel loved. I was encouraged to believe in myself and that anything I wanted to achieve was possible.’

Ben still keeps in touch with his birth family. He says, ‘I still visit them. My relationship with my family is okay but I struggle to relate to them. My carer has always made sure my family was seen in a positive manner and that I should always be appreciative of the little things that they were able to do.’

Ben is dual heritage, and his nan is from the Caribbean. He was matched with his foster carer who also has Caribbean heritage and was able to educate him on the Caribbean culture and make him feel proud to be a part of it. Ben says, ‘It helped me to relate to both my nan, and my foster carer’s family. It is more important for a foster carer to understand the type of child they may be looking after, their cultural needs and wants, as this will have an impact on the child’s life.’

How has growing up in foster care changed Ben’s life? ‘I have been able to go on nice holidays. However, I had to earn and work hard to obtain rewards. It’s been instilled into me that it’s important to understand that you have to work hard in life in order to achieve success, and that rewards are earned not just given.’

Ben has definitely worked hard. He did well at school, through some difficulties and achieved high grades in BTECs (2 As, 1B). Clare Houlton, the Headteacher for the Virtual School for Children Looked After*, played an important role in regards to education, ensuring Ben made the most of his academic opportunities and maximised his potential. He says, ‘Clare always went the extra mile, and was genuine and caring.’

Here’s Clare’s perspective: ‘As Virtual School Headteacher for children looked after, it has been an absolute privilege to work with Ben and his wonderful foster carer to support him on his educational journey from year 6 through to year 13 and beyond. Ben demonstrated exceptional resilience and focus in order to maximise his potential, achieve his goals and attain an excellent set of GCSE and post-16 qualifications. I am extremely proud of Ben’s achievements and he is an outstanding role model for children looked after. He is also responsible for introducing me to Cadbury’s chocolate Roundies and nothing brightens my week up more than popping over to see Ben and his foster carer for a cup of tea, a Roundie or two and a good catch up!

‘Being a determined advocate for Ben was at the heart of helping him to feel supported in the areas of his life and education which mattered to him most. Determined advocacy is one of the key elements at the centre of the way in which the Virtual School works to build relationships and support our children and young people to be confident in their ability and realise their potential.’

Something else that Ben noted was important was his appearance and clothing. He explains, ‘Socially, kids are very aware of other kid’s appearances, and this can often be one of the key areas they will use to pick on another child. A child in care, and any child, will want to fit in and not stick out so it’s important that a child can feel comfortable in public. Thanks to my carer, I was dressed fashionably and comfortably and this was important to me.’

What would Ben say to anyone thinking of fostering?
‘I want new foster carers to know that fostering isn’t going to be an easy journey, they shouldn’t give up when they encounter difficult times. Just like you wouldn’t give up on your own child, you shouldn’t give up on a foster child. The reason why my placement has been successful is because my carer taught me good morals and values and persevered through tough times.’

What’s next?
Ben is 18 and is now classed as a care leaver. He has a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement with his foster carer, which means he is able to leave his foster home when he feels comfortable. Excitedly, Ben is now in the process of starting his own business which will aim to support care leavers like himself. Watch this space.

*The Virtual School for Children Looked After maintains a school roll of all Reading’s children looked after, including those children placed out of authority, monitors Personal Education Plans, admissions, attendance, exclusions and has a duty to promote the educational achievement of all children looked after and previously looked after.


Exam results support for Reading’s young people

Young people will be able to access expert support from Brighter Futures for Children’s (BFfC) professional careers advisers after they receive their exam results next week.

The team at Elevate careers service will be available to provide information, advice and guidance online, in person or by phone after students find out their AS/A Level results on 10 August and GCSE results on 12 August.

Elevate, which is run by BFfC, is also holding a summer networking event later this month to help young people find a college course, apprenticeship or employment.

Young people who are concerned about their exam results have a variety of ways to chat with the careers team about their possible next steps. They can:

A summer networking event will also give young people living in Reading aged 16-19, or up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and /or disabilities, a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities. Elevate is holding the event in partnership with New Meaning on Thursday 19 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

Places must be booked in advance by calling Elevate on 0118 937 3766 or by email at: elevate@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Our team of experts at Elevate are ready and waiting to help Reading’s young people who are looking for advice and support after receiving their exam results.

“I am delighted that this year, they can offer face-to-face appointments in the excellent new Youth Hub in Reading town centre. There is also a great opportunity for young people to find out more about further education, apprenticeship and employment prospects at a summer networking event this month.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education, said: “It has been another extraordinary year for students in our schools and once again they will be receiving their exam results without having sat any exams.

“It is essential Reading’s young people have career experts to turn to for advice and support if they are concerned about their results. I would encourage any young person in that position to contact the friendly team at Elevate to chat about their next steps.”

The Elevate page on the Brighter Futures for Children website is regularly updated with local opportunities for jobs, traineeships, apprenticeships and internships, plus further and higher education choices. Visit:  https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/young-peoples-zone/careers-service-for-young-people/