Reading Youth Cabinet Conference 1st March

Reading Youth Cabinet are holding a conference by young people for young people on the 1st of March at St Laurence’s Church.

The conference starts at 9.30am and will include workshops which explore their three chosen campaigns for the year, 'Putting an End to Knife Crime', 'Mental Health Awareness and Reducing Homelessness'. They will also bring to debate the topic of Votes at 16 and the very current topic of the People’s Vote.

Antony Kildare, Managing Director for Brighter Futures for Children, and an elected member of Reading Borough Council will join the young people in the days activities and there will be an opportunity for you to meet the current youth cabinet members and Readings elected Member of Youth Parliament.

The conference is for young people aged 11 to 18 to attend, it is during a school day and if your school are not attending you will need permission to come.

Zarah Khan, Readings elected Member of Youth Parliament for 2019 says; “This is a great opportunity to see how you can campaign on issues which are important for young people. Also, you will be able to meet famous local politicians and councillors. Finally, it's lots of fun to talk to others who share the same passion as you!”

BFfC to take part in restorative approach project

A new programme that involves children and professionals from a range of public bodies who have contact with children and young people is being rolled out across the South of England in a drive to improve children’s mental health services, NHS England (South East) has announced.

Around 6,000 members of staff working in the NHS, police, schools, and local authority children’s services will take part in the programme over the next 12 months. Brighter Futures for Children is taking part in the programme.

Importantly, children and young people will also take part, as part of an approach known as restorative practice which brings different groups of people together. They will work with the professionals to continue to improve, or in some cases, re-design, children’s mental health services across the South of England.

Antony Kildare, Managing Director of Brighter Futures for Children, said: 'We're delighted to be part of this initiative. Listening to children and young people and, more importantly, hearing what they say is essential if we're going to improve what we offer. Co-designing this service is a  great start.'

Designed as a way to bring different parties to work together, the restorative approach is based on research carried out it New Zealand and has been imported to the UK with great success. It is thought to be the first time that it is being deployed at such a scale in England.

Sally Rickard, Deputy Director Clinical Networks and Senate said: “The restorative approach has proven to be highly successful in the past and is already being used nationally to tackle other issues. We believe it has great potential to improve children’s mental health which has been set as one of the priorities in the NHS Long Term Plan. This collaborative approach to work can bring us together and make tremendous improvements in the way we help our younger population.”


Make your voice heard

The Reading Youth Cabinet elections are being held in March 2019 and we are looking for young people to put themselves forward to stand for election.

Reading Youth Cabinet is an elected group of young people from all across Reading who run campaigns and work on a wide range of issues with different people. They are all about ensuring that the voice of young people in Reading is powerful, influential and results in change to better things for young people.

In the past, members of the Youth Cabinet have produced leaflets promoting better mental health for young people, developed magazines raising awareness of equal rights and lobbied schools to improve how they deliver PSHE.

We are looking for young people who are aged between 11 and 18 and who live or go to school in Reading, to nominate themselves to stand for election and represent the voice of young people.

The deadline for nomination is 15 February (that's Friday!) and elections are held from the 18 -28 March.  We will support you every step of the way to make sure your campaign is heard by your peers and to give you the chance to be elected.

Riya Jamthe, current RYC Chair says: ''Just go for it! We need strong and talented individuals such as you to join our team! It also looks good on your personal statement and CV."


It's Children's Mental Health Week

Calling all parents, carers, schools and workplaces - this week is Children's Mental Health Week and Brighter Futures for Children is encouraging you to join in and spread the word.

By combining our efforts we have the potential to reach thousands more children, young people and families.

You can start supporting Children’s Mental Health Week right now by spreading the word in your school or organisation – and shouting about it on social media! Use the hashtag #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek.

For free resources, useful information and details on how to get involved, visit  where children's charity Place2Be is shining a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.

The theme for the week is Healthy: Inside and Out. You can read about the activities, organised by Place2Be here.

Norcot Early Years Centre 'Outstanding'

A Tilehurst nursery school has been judged ‘Outstanding’ following a recent Ofsted inspection. Norcot Early Years Centre has maintained the outstanding quality of education since the first Ofsted inspection in 2005.

Inspectors commented that the school in Lyndhurst Road has continued to provide an exciting and stimulating curriculum alongside the exceptional care that was identified in the previous inspection report in 2014. As a result, children love learning and make outstanding progress from their starting points.

The Ofsted letter to Head of Centre Diana Heath says: “Leaders, including the governing body, have continued to improve quality of education and care. You have refined the school’s monitoring and support systems to ensure that children’s skills, knowledge and understanding develop well in every area of the curriculum. Consequently, children, including children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), make rapid progress from starting points that are below those typical at this age.”

Governors are also praised for having a breadth of educational and social-care expertise which they utilise to challenge and support the school in equal measure.

The report adds: “Children behave extremely well at Norcot. They are attentive, kind and empathetic. Children play very well together and share their toys and books happily. Children also respond very well to instructions and attentively follow the school rules.”

Inspectors found that safeguarding at the nursery school was effective and leaders were highly vigilant and alert to the importance of ensuring strong safeguarding arrangements were in place.

One parent echoed the view of many when they said: “Norcot provides us with the best, safest and most inspiring environment for our children.”

Leaders and staff are said to provide exceptional care for families that goes beyond their statutory duty and the family worker also provides support regarding housing, finance and medical issues.

The inspector said: “This helps to ensure that children are well cared for both at school and at home. Many parents told me how the school had transformed their lives and the lives of their children through this additional care and support.”

The nursery school was also praised for providing effective activities for children at lunchtime and establishing a ‘learning through nature approach’ which includes regular visits to local parks and woods.

Other positives were that the nursery ensures children acquire and develop strong language skills, activities extend children’s physical and emotional engagement and individual pupil’s strengths and weaknesses are identified with precision.

Antony Kildare, Managing Director of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “We are thrilled with the ‘Outstanding’ judgement for Norcot Early Years Centre and congratulate all leaders and staff at the nursery school. It is heart-warming to read the comments of the inspector but also of the parents who use the centre. Everybody involved in Norcot Nursery should be very proud of their achievements and with the glowing feedback from the inspector, parents and children.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education, said: “Norcot Early Years Centre has a long track record of delivering outstanding education to young children. I congratulate everyone involved in achieving their latest Ofsted judgement.”

Full Report

The full Ofsted report, following the Inspector’s visit on 12th December 2018, can be found at:

Brighter Futures for Children logo

Brighter Futures for Children begins

A new company created to provide Children’s Services for Reading has gone live this morning (Monday 3rd December). From today, Brighter Futures for Children is responsible for delivering Children’s Social Care, Early Help and Education services across the borough.

The Company brings a highly skilled and dedicated team from of specialists who will be focused on providing the best possible services for children and young people in Reading.

Tony Kildare, Managing Director of Brighter Futures for Children, said:

“We are very excited that Brighter Futures for Children is launching at a time when change is needed.

“We will work closely with partners and a wide range of stakeholders to improve services and deliver the best life chances for our children and young people. We believe there is a critical role for the private sector to play in supporting our young people to gain the best opportunities whether through training, apprenticeship or employment.

“We are determined that our children and young people in Reading have a voice in shaping the kinds of services we deliver”.

Brighter Futures for Children is led by Chair Deborah Jenkins MBE DL who has extensive experience working with children and young people, including in her role as Chair of Together for Children in Sunderland.

Ms Jenkins said:

“We have brought together a very strong Board of Directors who are committed to contributing their skills and expertise to lead the change we need in Reading.  The team at Brighter Futures for Children are sharply focused on the improvement journey that lies ahead and are determined to do the best for children and young people in Reading.”

The Company will work closely with partners in the local community and key organisations including the Council, police, public health, voluntary groups and local businesses.

Reading Borough Council has been instrumental in the creation of the Company in co-operation with Nick Whitfield, the government’s Commissioner for Children’s Services, and the Department for Education.

Cllr Jo Lovelock, Leader of Reading Borough Council, said:

“This is a significant day which marks a fundamental change in the way Children’s Social Care, Early Help and Education services are delivered in Reading.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work to drive forward improvements to Children’s Services and the Council will not lose sight of its ambition to ensure the borough’s children and young people receive the best possible services.”

Peter Sloman, Chief Executive of Reading Borough Council, said:

“The transfer of Children’s Services to Brighter Futures for Children will result in a step change in the way services are provided for young people in Reading.

“The new company is led by an experienced and dedicated team who will have the flexibility and adaptability to accelerate the pace of improvements required for Children’s Services.”

Stephen Kitchman, Reading’s Director of Children, Education & Early Help Services, said:

“Everyone has been working extremely hard to improve and develop services for children and young people in Reading.

“The creation of Brighter Futures for Children presents a great opportunity to deliver services differently and to really drive the service forward.”

The Children and Families Minister sent a message of support to the new children’s company.

Nadhim Zahawi, Children and Families Minister, said:

“The safety and wellbeing of children must come first, so it is vital that our most vulnerable young people and their families receive the high-quality care and support they deserve.

“Children’s trusts across the country have shown some really positive results in turning services around and I look forward to hearing about the progress Brighter Futures for Children makes in improving support for the children and families in Reading who need it most.”

Notes to editors

Reading Borough Council has been working closely with the Department for Education (DfE) to drive forward improvements in Children’s Services following an ‘Inadequate’ judgement by Ofsted inspectors in August 2016.

The DfE-appointed Commissioner Nick Whitfield recommended in July 2017 that the Council’s Children’s Services should be transferred to a company, wholly-owned by the Council.

Reading Borough Council supported the recommendation to establish a company to deliver children’s social care, early help, education and health services and Brighter Futures for Children was created in April 2018 as a result.

The company has its own independent board and a decision-making process, separate to the Council’s. It also operates within its own ring-fenced budget. The Council will however, continue to hold the company to account for performance.

Teenager working on car engine

Positive futures for young people leaving care

Young people leaving care are well prepared for the future and supported in all aspects of their lives, according to the latest Ofsted report on Reading’s Children’s Services.

Inspectors found that young people leaving care are receiving overall improving services from the Council, during their two day visit earlier this summer.

Each monitoring visit by Ofsted inspectors focuses on a specific area of Children’s Services and ‘young people leaving care’ was the subject of their latest inspection on 31st July and 1st August.

It was the seventh Ofsted monitoring visit since the department was judged inadequate following a full inspection in June 2016.

The Ofsted letter, published today, says detailed attention is paid to the individual needs and circumstances of young people preparing for their transition towards independent living. Young people aged 16 and 17 are carefully prepared for leaving care through closely planned joint work between social workers and leaving care advisers (LCAs).

Young people aged between 18 and 25 are supported well in all aspects of their lives by skilled and experienced LCAs.

Inspectors say:

“Sustained and continued efforts mean that no young people are left without dedicated support, even when they are resistant to being helped and difficult to engage.”

The report continues: “A strong intent to build trusting, constructive and continuous professional relationships with young people who have left care permeates the work of social workers and LCAs.”

Line managers are also praised for offering helpful and supportive advice and direction to staff.

The Ofsted letter says:

“Direct work with young people leaving care is a strength. LCAs and social workers make determined efforts to build and maintain purposeful relationships with young people.

“These strong professional attachments influence many young people to make progress with their education, employment and training (EET), and to benefit from living in suitable, supported, semi-independent housing settings.”

Regular meetings are held between involved partners, closely tracking young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

The report noted constructive partnership and multi-agency working to help reduce risks to vulnerable young people.

Inspectors also found that young people who arrive as unaccompanied asylum seekers are carefully supported and are found accommodation suitable to their needs.

LCAs and social workers told inspectors they felt well supported and guided in their direct work by managers who are easily available, knowledgeable and experienced.

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said:

“I am pleased to see the commitment of social workers and leaving care advisers are recognised in this latest Ofsted monitoring report.

“Inspectors found there is a good level of guidance and support for young people in Reading who are leaving care and embarking on their adult lives. This is helping them to move on and take advantage of further education, employment and training opportunities.

“There are also some areas of improvement identified by inspectors which the team are already working hard to address.”

Notes to editors

The Ofsted monitoring report can be found at:

Teenager/young man looking at notice board

A-level results 2018

The number of pupils achieving the highest A-level grades increased in Reading this year, according to provisional figures collated by the Council.

Sixty-two percent of students achieved A*–B across the borough compared with 57 per cent last year.

The number of young people achieving A*–C passes was 77 per cent compared with 78 per cent in 2017 and the number passing A*–E was 94 per cent compared with 98 per cent last year.

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said:

“Students across Reading continue to achieve excellent results in their A level exams, with increases in the top grades achieved across many of our schools, alongside more pupils sitting these tougher exams. Every one of our schools is striving year on year for improvements in exam performance against the backdrop of lower funding from central Government and a difficult recruitment arena.

“Every student’s successful result is the culmination of years of hard work from themselves, their teachers and their parents. Everyone involved is a vital part of the school system and each should be congratulated. Overall results and percentages tend to be looked at on days like this, but it is the importance of these results to each individual student that really counts and the difference they can make to these young people’s lives.”

Reading Mayor Cllr Deborah Edwards with In our Shoes artwork

Children in care art displayed at Reading Museum

Artwork created by children in care has been put on display at Reading Museum.

A group of young people who live away from their natural parents have given an insight into their lives through the pieces of art called ‘In our Shoes’ and ‘Helping Hands’.

The children and young people, who are part of the Children in Care Council, meet regularly every month to take part in activities together and the pieces of art were created during these sessions.

Reading Mayor Cllr Deborah Edwards visited the display at Reading Museum on Wednesday 30th May and met some of the children who had created the artwork.

The striking ‘In our Shoes’ display was created by the young people using their old shoes. Their introduction to the display explains:

“These shoes show the journey of our life in care. The words explain how we felt going into care, how we feel now.  Our shoes we created show sometimes it was fun and sometimes hard being in care. It was important to us to take time designing and creating our shoes and we wanted people to understand how children in care feel.”

The thoughtful ‘Helping Hands’ pieces have been created by the children to express how they respect and value their foster carers who provide them with a safe and stable home environment. Their introduction to the display says:

“These hands are the hands that have helped us. They are our foster parents who have helped us by looking after us and keep us safe because we can’t live with our families. We would like to thank our foster carers who are amazing.”

One of the young people said after the museum visit:

“I feel thrilled that everybody that visits the Museum gets to see what we have done and understands what it’s like living our life.”

Another said: “It was a good experience to see it myself and made me feel proud that other people would be able to see it.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said:

“Living away from your parents can be a big change and difficult time for children. Things don’t always go smoothly but most children appreciate having someone to care for them.

“Children recognise their foster carer as someone who is there to keep them safe and look after them and they often form great relationships.

“This touching art project has given children in care an opportunity to express their feelings and give a personal view of their journey so far.”

Cllr Sarah Hacker, Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said:

“Art is a great way for individuals to explore their emotions and to give others an insight into how they are feeling.

“I hope this fabulous project is the start of a great creative relationship between the children in care team and Reading Museum.”

New children’s services company starts formation with selection of name and appointment of Chair

Significant steps have been taken to form the new company which will run Reading’s Children Services.

The company now has a name, a company Chair and a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed to move forward the creation of the organisation. A grant of £2.9m to implement the project has been agreed by the Secretary of State.

Brighter Futures for Children has been chosen as the name for the new company following a consultation involving young people, residents and Council officers across Reading.

The company has started to form its new senior leadership team. Deborah Jenkins MBE DL has been appointed as Chair in a joint decision by the Council, Department for Education (DfE) and the Children’s Commissioner Nick Whitfield.  Ms Jenkins’ experience as Chair for Together for Children in Sunderland will be invaluable in driving improvements in Reading.

The first official steps in the formation of Brighter Futures for Children has been completed as the Memorandum of Understanding has now been signed between Reading Borough Council and the DfE, meaning the company has officially agreed the outline for its terms, requirements and responsibilities.

Plans for the new organisation were developed by the Council in partnership with Nick Whitfield, the government’s Commissioner for Children’s Services, and the Department for Education.

Councillor Jo Lovelock, the Leader of Reading Borough Council, said:

“It is exciting that good progress is being made in setting up the new children’s company which will provide Children’s Social Care, Early Help, Education and Health Services in Reading.

“The creation of Brighter Futures for Children will allow a fundamental change in the way children’s services are delivered in Reading and will build on the tremendous amount of hard work that has already gone into driving the service forward.”

Peter Sloman, Chief Executive of Reading Borough Council, said:

“The formation of the new company for Reading’s children’s services is now building momentum.

“Brighter Futures for Children is set to bring the flexibility for change that is needed in Reading.  I look forward to seeing the company progress in the coming months and welcome the opportunity it will bring to deliver services differently for the children and young people of Reading.”

Ms Jenkins said:

“I’m very excited to be joining the team at Brighter Futures for Children on a journey which will bring real opportunities for the children and young people of Reading.

“My experience of Chairing Sunderland’s children’s services has shown that the independence created by having the new company has brought a real chance to do things with a fresh approach and to be different to what has gone before.

“I’m looking forward to meeting children, staff and partners to understand what’s working and what needs to change.  If we can listen to each other, share ideas and work together, I have every confidence that we can use this once in a generation chance to improve life chances for children.”

Notes to editors

Reading Borough Council has been working closely with the Department for Education (DfE) to drive improvement in Children’s Services following an Ofsted inspection in 2016. DfE appointed Commissioner Nick Whitfield recommended that the Council’s Children’s Services should be transferred to a company, wholly-owned by the Council.

The Council supported the recommendation to establish a company to deliver children’s social care, early help, education and health services.

The aim is to have a shadow company in place by mid-summer 2018 and for the company to go live in October 2018.