Reading children’s home judged ‘Outstanding’

A children’s home that provides short breaks for Reading children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) has been judged ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

The inspector praised Cressingham, in south Reading, for providing highly effective services that contribute to significantly improved outcomes for children and young people who need help, protection and care.

The judgement came following a two-day inspection in October 2022 and is the third consecutive ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating for the home while being run by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC).

The overall experiences and progress of children and young people at the home was rated ‘Outstanding’.

The inspector said: “Staff love and value the children for their unique personalities. They know the children’s likes and dislikes extremely well and arrange activities and outings to suit, such as visiting the beach and going on train rides.”

She praised the “long serving, committed and skilled staff” for understanding children’s needs and vulnerabilities extremely well and helping them to grow in confidence and develop as independent individuals.

How well children and young people are helped and protected was also judged ‘Outstanding’.

The inspector said: “Children are safe and are very happy visiting the home. They show this through their smiles and constant interaction with staff.”

She also noted how staff work collaboratively with other professionals, parents and family members to gain insight into each child’s complex needs and communication barriers.

The effectiveness of leaders and managers was rated ‘Good’.

The registered manager of the home was praised for being experienced, dynamic and skilled in managing a children’s short break setting and for working incredibly hard to build positive relationships with children, staff and parents.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Congratulations to everyone at Cressingham for achieving this well-deserved ’Outstanding’ Ofsted rating.

“We are extremely proud of the team for the care and commitment they show towards the children and young people who love visiting the home.

“It is a joy to read the inspector’s comments about her positive time at Cressingham, which mirrors the experience of the children and young people who visit.”

The full Ofsted report is available at: Ofsted | 2502333


Give the gift of home this Christmas

A festive campaign encouraging Reading people to consider giving the gift of home to a vulnerable child has been launched by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) this week.

The 12 Days of Christmas social media campaign highlights the fact that individuals or families could be fostering a child and giving them a stable, safe, loving home next Christmas if they enquire now.

Each day the campaign will be focusing on a different aspect of fostering, such as the attributes you need, the benefits of having a foster child in your life and busting some fostering myths.

The campaign on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn started on Tuesday 13 December and will run until Christmas Eve.

Di Smith, Board Chair of BFfC, said: “Christmas is a time for giving and I cannot think of many better gifts than providing a vulnerable child or young person with a safe, loving home.

“Friends and family are particularly in our thoughts at this time of year but sadly there are children who will not be experiencing the magic and joy of Christmas they deserve.

“We need more foster carers in Reading to ensure vulnerable Reading children can stay close to their families and friends. If you enquire about fostering with us now, you could be giving a child or young person their best ever Christmas next year.”

BFfC’s Fostering service is an Ofsted rated ‘Good’ provider which operates as a not-for-profit agency on behalf of Reading Borough Council.

Please visit: https://www.readingfostering.co.uk/, email: foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org or phone: 0118 469 3020 for more information about fostering.


Appointment of new, permanent Director of Children’s Services for Reading

Reading Borough Council & Brighter Futures for Children press release

Reading Borough Council (RBC) and Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) are delighted to announce the appointment of Lara Patel as the new, permanent Director of Children’s Services (DCS) for Reading.

Lara, who has more than 25 years’ experience working across local authority and voluntary sector children’s services, joins us from her current role as Deputy Director of Children’s Services for Oxfordshire County Council.

Lara will spend 20% of her time with her primary employer – Reading Borough Council – and 80% with Brighter Futures for Children - the children’s service alternative delivery model company, owned by RBC but independent of it. She will sit on the senior leadership teams of both and will also be an executive member of the BFfC Board.

The DCS role is a statutory appointment and Lara replaces Deborah Glassbrook, who was appointed in October 2019 and retired in June this year. BFfC’s Director of Education, Brian Grady, has stepped up as interim DCS while the new appointment process was under way.

Lara has led the delivery of a wide range of strategic and operational children’s services at local, regional and national levels, for both local authorities and The Children’s Society. She has also held positions as both a Board Director and a Trustee.

“We are delighted that Lara will be joining us as the new DCS for Reading,’ said Di Smith, Executive Director and Board Chair for BFfC.

“Lara has significant experience of leading change, working in partnership with staff and partners and a solid track record of developing strong collaborative partnerships, internally and externally.”

Leader of Reading Borough Council Cllr Jason Brock said: “We have been fortunate to find a new Director of Children’s Services with Lara’s experience, in-depth knowledge of children’s social care and passion for improving the delivery of children’s services in Reading.

“During these challenging times it is more important than ever that good quality services are provided to children, young people and their families in Reading. I look forward to welcoming Lara as she takes the lead in this vital role.”

Lara will be joining the teams at Reading Borough Council and Brighter Futures for Children early in the new year.

 


Upgrade of online services directory for Reading families

BRIGHTER FUTURES FOR CHILDREN & READING BOROUGH COUNCIL PRESS RELEASE

 

Reading’s online directory which provides information for families, adults and parent carers of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) has undergone a major make over.

The Reading Services Guide has a completely new look and feel but still contains all the award-winning information, advice and guidance residents have come to expect.

The guide includes the Reading Family Information Service (FIS) and SEND Local Offer, provided by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), and Adult & Carers Support, provided by Reading Borough Council.

  • Reading FIS provides free, impartial information, advice and guidance for families with children aged between 0-18 (up to 25 for young people with SEND).
  • Reading SEND Local Offer helps families find information about local services, support, activities and events for children and young people aged 0-25 with SEND
  • Adult & Carers Support Services helps adults find advice, care and support services, plus a range of social groups and leisure activities.

BFfC and Reading council have consulted with user groups, such as Reading Families’ Forum, on the design of the upgraded website to make it as accessible and user-friendly as possible.

The refreshed website will be easier for users to navigate and find relevant information whether they are on a computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “There is a phenomenal amount of information on the Reading Services Guide so it is important that it is as easy as possible for families to find what they are looking for.

“Reading’s excellent FIS/SEND Local Offer was named the Best SEND Local Offer in a national awards ceremony in November 2021. The refresh of the online directory will make the overall service even better for Reading’s families.”

Reading's Family Information Service (FIS) also won the award for Best Community Engagement, at the National Association of Family Information Services (NAFIS), Coram Family & Childcare conference earlier this month.

Cllr John Ennis, Lead Councillor for Adult Social Care, said: “The Reading Services Guide is a vital source of information for residents looking for advice or details of care services and support groups in the area.

“Individuals can find out about the support available to live at home, staying healthy and well, finding work or training and much more. The new-look website will make it even easier for people to find the information they want and access the help they need.”

You can reach the home page of the Reading Services Guide here: Reading Directory

The Family Information Service can additionally be accessed via its own URL: www.readingfis.org and the Reading SEND Local Offer via its own link: www.readingsendlocaloffer.org.

ENDS


Foster Carers Dinner & Awards Evening 2022

The commitment and dedication of Reading’s foster carers was celebrated at a special award ceremony on Thursday (20 October).

Seventy-seven foster carers attended the event at Brown’s restaurant in The Oracle which was hosted by Brighter Futures for Children’s (BFfC) independent fostering agency.

The meal and ceremony are held every year as a thank you to BFfC’s foster carers who do so much for our children looked after in Reading.

Sinead Gibson receiving a certificate and voucher for 15 years foster care from Deputy Mayor Cllr Debs Edwards.

Deputy Mayor of Reading Cllr Debs Edwards attended the evening and presented certificates to new and experienced foster carers. Certificates were handed to foster carers who had recently completed their training, support and development (TSD) standards, as well as those who had completed five, 10 and 15 years in their roles.

There were also awards for individuals and couples for their outstanding contributions to fostering, nominated by the children’s social workers and Independent Reviewing Officers.

One couple were recognised for the love, warmth and unswerving support they have given to a child in their care who is living with them under a long-term arrangement. Another couple were awarded for their dedicated and diligent care of a child who had profound health issues when they went into their care.

First place went to a foster carer who has gone above and beyond supporting the child in her care, including maintaining connections with the child’s sibling and birth parents.

Nigel & Sherri Ward receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Fostering Award from Maria Young, BFfC Director of Children's Social Care. 

Maria Young, BFfC Director of Children’s Social Care, who attended the evening said: “It was such a privilege to have so many of our amazing foster carers together to celebrate the wonderful work they do.

“It was incredible to hear their stories and witness the passion they have for caring for our children and young people.

“From foster carers who were just starting out to those who were celebrating 15 years, and others who have made outstanding contributions, they all deserve a massive thank you.”

If you are interested in joining Reading’s community of foster carers, BFfC’s Fostering agency is keen to hear from you.

We are looking for local people to care for local children so they can stay close to family and friends. Please visit: https://www.readingfostering.co.uk/, email: foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org or phone: 0118 469 3020.

BFfC’s Fostering service is an Ofsted rated ‘Good’ provider which operates as a not-for-profit agency on behalf of Reading Borough Council.


Expansion of mental health service for Reading’s young people

A service which offers additional mental health support to children and young people in Reading is expanding to cover more than double the number of schools in the borough.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) launched the Mental Health Support Team (MHST) to 16 schools in west Reading as part of an innovative trailblazer project in January 2020.

The scheme is now being expanded to a further 20 schools in south and central Reading.

BFfC is working in partnership with the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB), which is funding the project, to form the expanded MHST. It is part of a Reading-wide systemic approach to improving mental health for children and young people.

The MHST supports children and young people, and their families, with emerging, mild or moderate mental health needs, focusing particularly on low mood, anxiety and behaviour. The aim is to help prevent more serious problems developing.

The expanded service complements mental health support already provided in schools and by existing professionals and services, such as school-based counsellors, educational psychologists, school nurses, primary mental health workers, school pastoral care teams, educational welfare officers, voluntary sector organisations and Children and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) services.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “The expansion of services we offer to Reading schools is both valuable and critical, post-pandemic, in addressing the increase in children and young people’s mental health needs.

“I would like to thank our health service colleagues for their support which has helped us more than double the number of schools whose pupils will now be able to access the service.”

Dr Heather Howells, GP and Mental Health lead for BOB ICB, said: “We know the last few years, particularly during the pandemic, have been tough for young people’s mental wellbeing and the Mental Health Support Team have been providing a vital service to schools in Reading, helping young people cope with mental health difficulties.

 “I’m so pleased, through BOB ICB funding, we are now able to increase the number of schools the MHST supports, enabling more young people to access important mental health services.” 

 Cllr Ruth McEwan, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “I am delighted to see the important service provided by the Mental Health Support Team being made available to more school pupils across Reading.

 “It’s tragic that we’ve seen such an increase in children and young people struggling with their mental health nationally. It’s crucial services like this that can have a direct positive impact on the wellbeing of our young people in Reading.”

Information about what the MHST can offer and how to access the service, along with leaflets for children, young people and parents/carers, are available on the BFfC website at: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/MHST

NOTES TO EDITOR

  • The expanded MHST will support the following 20 schools in the south and centre of Reading: John Madejski Academy, Maiden Erlegh Reading, Reading Girls, UTC Reading, Reading College (16 - 18), Alfred Sutton, Christ the King, Coley, Geoffrey Field Infant, Geoffrey Field Junior, Green Park Village, Katesgrove, New Christ Church, Palmer Academy, Redlands, Ridgeway, St Marys and All Saints, Whitley Park, Hamilton School and Holy Brook.

Reading GCSE results 2022

Students across Reading are collecting their GCSE results this morning (25 August).

This year’s candidates are the first to have sat their GCSE exams since 2019. Students in the previous two years have had their grades assigned by teachers, due to COVID restrictions being in place.

This year’s students will still have suffered disruption to their learning due to the pandemic and this has been reflected in the way papers have been graded.

Some students will also be receiving their vocational and technical qualifications (VTQ) results today.

While most will be pleased with their results, anyone who is disappointed has help at hand. Elevate careers service, run by Brighter Futures for Children, is on standby to offer education, training and employment advice and guidance to young people in Reading.

Brian Grady, Interim Director of Children’s Services and Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Well done to all Reading students collecting their results today. You have really had to focus on your studies and carry on working through the distractions and disruption caused by COVID.

“I hope your resilience has paid off and your results confirm your chosen next stage of education through school, college or apprenticeship.

“For those students who have not received the grades they were hoping for, please be assured that you are not alone and there will be ways of achieving your ambitions. Please do contact our advisors at Elevate careers service to help you plan your next steps.

“Also, thank you to all school staff in Reading who have worked so hard to support their pupils through challenging times.”

Cllr Ruth McEwan, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “There have been some great results coming out of Reading’s schools today and I would like to congratulate all those pupils who have done so well.

“Any young people who were disappointed with their results should not worry as there is an array of opportunities available to them. I would urge them to take advantage of the expert advice and guidance on offer from our Elevate careers team.

“I would also like to extend my thanks to Reading’s schools for doing so much for our children and young people and their local communities.”

The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

There is also lots of information and guidance available to parents and students on the Education Hub published by the Department for Education at: https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/.


Reading AS/A-Level results 2022

Young people across Reading have been finding out their A/AS level results this morning (Thursday 18 August).

This year’s candidates are the first to sit exams since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students in 2020 and 2021 had their grades assigned by teachers.

AS/A-level students would still have had their learning disrupted by the pandemic and should feel proud of their achievements under difficult circumstances.

Young people on some B-Tec vocational courses and those who have taken the first T-levels, a post-GCSE technical qualification, will also receive their results today.

Anyone disappointed with their results should take advantage of the support on offer, including Elevate careers service, run by Brighter Futures for Children, is open to offer advice and guidance for Reading students and there is a drop-in careers fair being held today between 11am-3pm in west Reading.

Brian Grady, Interim Director of Children’s Services and Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Young people receiving their results in Reading have demonstrated resilience, focus and learned new ways of learning throughout the pandemic. I applaud all of our Reading young people today and wish you every success for your future.

“I would also like to say thank you to the school leaders, teachers and support staff who have worked so hard to support their pupils through challenging times.

“For young people who may not have received the grades they were hoping for, I hope you take a moment to recognise how well you have risen to the challenge these past two years, and how this will stand you in good stead in the years to come. You are not alone and there will be many options for you to consider. Do please contact our advisors at Elevate careers service to help you think about how you can take the next steps to achieve your ambitions”.

Cllr Ruth McEwan, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “Congratulations to all the young people in Reading who received their exam results today. I wish them all the best in their next steps, whether that involves higher education, employment or training.

“If you did not receive the results you had hoped for, you should not feel disheartened as there are so many different options available. Do please contact our expert careers team at Elevate who can talk you through all the possible choices.”

The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

Elevate is also running a drop-in summer careers event today to give young people living in Reading aged 16-19 (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.

The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning Berkshire at 28 Portman Road, Reading, RG30 1EA, between 11am-3pm.


Expert careers advisors on hand to give exam results support

Young people in Reading will be able to access expert advice and guidance from professional careers advisors at Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) after receiving their exam results this month.

The team at Elevate careers service, run by BFfC, will be available to talk to students online, by phone, email or in person if they are disappointed with their results or need some support.

Young people who sat their exams this summer are due to receive their A/AS Level results on 18 August and GCSE results on 25 August. T-Level results will also be available on 18 August and some vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) will also be released on 18 and 25 August.

Young people who are concerned about their exam results and want some guidance about their possible next steps have a variety of ways of getting in touch with advisors at Elevate.

Elevate is also running a summer careers event to give young people living in Reading aged 16-19 (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.

The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning Berkshire on Thursday 18 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

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

Brian Grady, Interim Director of Children’s Services and Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I would like to send best wishes to all the young people in Reading who will be receiving their exam results this month.

“They can be assured that our professional careers advisors at Elevate will be on hand to give them expert guidance and advice should they need it.

“The friendly team are available to talk online, by phone, email or in-person, so I would urge any young person who has any concerns or questions to get in touch.”

Cllr Ruth McEwan, Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “This can be an anxious time for young people awaiting their exam results and I wish them all good luck.

“There are so many different options available to young people that there will always be positive ways of moving forward even if they don’t get the results they hoped for.

“I would strongly encourage them to contact the team at Elevate if they need advice on what steps to take next.”

The Elevate page in the Young People’s Zone of the BFfC website is regularly updated with local job, traineeship, apprenticeship and internship opportunities, plus further and higher education choices. Visit:  https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/young-peoples-zone/careers-service-for-young-people/.


Reading families invited to register for summer Holiday Activity & Food scheme

Hundreds of families across Reading are being invited to register for the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) scheme this summer.

The programme provides a wide range of different activities, and lunches, for children who are normally entitled to pupil premium free school meals.

Eligible families are able to register for places on the scheme on the Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) website now at: Holiday Activities and Food scheme (HAF) - Brighter Futures For Children.

This summer, eligible children are invited to attend four-hour sessions, four times a week for four weeks.

The list of organisations offering holiday camps ranges from Reading FC to Rabble Theatre and from New Direction College to Grassrootz.

Families need to re-register to access HAF activities every new holiday season, even if they have used the scheme previously.

BFfC co-ordinates HAF on behalf of Reading Borough Council and the scheme is funded by the Department for Education.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “We were so pleased that more than 700 children attended the fun activities through the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) scheme over the Easter break.

“Now, I would encourage eligible families to register to make sure their children can join in the amazing holiday camps which will be available over the long summer break. Don’t forget, you need to re-register even if you have used the HAF scheme before.”

Graeme Hoskin, Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “In these tough times when so many families are struggling financially it is important there is extra support available during the school holidays.

“The Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) scheme will make a big difference to those families whose children will be able to have great fun, make new friends and enjoy a nutritious lunch throughout the summer break.”

To register for HAF and to find more information please visit: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/for-parents-carers/schools/haf/

Notes to Editors

The full list of organisations offering holiday camps through the HAF scheme are: NSSPORT, Sports in Mind, St Josephs, Reading FC, Usport, Premier Education, New Direction College, Cultural Education Partnership, Next Thing Education, Make Sense, Little Musketeers, Rabble Theatre, Grassrootz.