03 December 2020

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) is celebrating its second birthday today (Thursday 3 December).

As a not-for-profit company we have made significant progress in delivering education and children’s services since 3 December 2018 and remain committed to driving forward improvement.

BFfC has continued to focus on delivering quality services for children and young people in Reading despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic this year.

We’re proud of how far we’ve come and want to celebrate our birthday by marking a few of our achievements and to say a huge thank you to everyone at BFfC for helping us get this far.

Here’s a look back over the past two years:

Reading’s children’s services improved its Ofsted rating to ‘Requires improvement to be good’ in October 2019. In March 2020 BFfC’s Independent Fostering Agency’s status moved up to ‘Requires improvement to be good’ following an Ofsted inspection.

Since lockdown in March, BFfC has adapted its ways of working to continue providing vital services to children, families and schools.

Our social care, early help and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) teams have worked with around 5,000 children and young people through the pandemic. More than 2,000 risk assessments were carried out to check what additional support may be required by children with SEND.

The Education service has been providing support and advice to Reading’s schools under challenging circumstances throughout the pandemic. Almost 500 laptops have been distributed to disadvantaged children in Reading through the government scheme to help with online learning.

BFfC created a local Free School Meal voucher scheme in March, before the national operation was set up, and issued 14,226 five-day food vouchers to families. Staff also worked with Reading Borough Council and the University of Reading to make sure no children went hungry in Reading during the October half-term break.

Our children’s centres have continued to provide virtual activities for families across Reading and held outdoor socially-distanced walks when government guidance has allowed.

Elevate Careers Service introduced a live chat facility on the BFfC website for the first time to offer advice to students on exam results days this year and has seen the numbers of young people not in education, employment or training in Reading falling dramatically.

Other achievements in 2020 include the creation of the Mental Health Support Team, in partnership with the NHS Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, which provides school-based support to children and young people experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems.

Cressingham children’s home achieved an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted judgement in February, matching the achievement of Pinecroft children’s home in August 2019.

BFfC has also worked closely with Reading Borough Council, neighbouring councils, the DfE and education providers to ensure more school places are created for children with SEND, including the new Oak Tree School in Wokingham and Hamilton School in east Reading.

Government funding of almost £23,000 was secured by BFfC in August to help schools promote children’s mental wellbeing when they returned in September following the coronavirus lockdown and summer break.

BFfC joined forces with the University of Reading again in November to host the Big Education Conversation which featured teachers, academics and school pupils in an online debate about why Black Lives Matter in education. The company was also proud to support the national Youth Climate Summit, virtually attended by Reading school pupils, the same month.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said“I would like to thank our partners for all their support in helping us achieve what we have so far.

“Our staff have been incredible in demonstrating their commitment to Reading’s children by quickly adapting to new ways of working, forced on us by the coronavirus pandemic. They have continued to provide essential services and been there for children and families when needed.

“I feel Brighter Futures for Children has truly established itself and made great strides forward. However, we are by no means complacent about the task ahead and recognise there is still much to do to provide the outstanding service Reading’s children deserve.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “Happy 2nd birthday to all at Brighter Futures for Children and well done to everyone who has worked so hard to support our schools during this very difficult year.

“It has been a tough time for Headteachers, school staff and pupils and I’m sure the assistance offered by the experienced education team at BFfC has been very welcome.

“I hope we can look forward to a calmer 2021 with a focus on supporting schools to provide the best possible education for Reading’s children and young people.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “This has been an extraordinary year for everyone but I am particularly proud of our children’s social care team which has continued to support families and vulnerable children throughout the pandemic.

“Social workers and family workers don’t always get the recognition they deserve as key workers but they carry out vital work and are supported by a dedicated team behind the scenes.

“I’d like to wish everyone at Brighter Futures for Children a happy second anniversary and look forward to continuing improvements to services for children and young people in Reading.”