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TORBAY YOUTH SERVICE IS UNSATISFACTORY, SAY INSPECTORS

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The inspection report for Torbay Youth Service is published today by ...
The inspection report for Torbay Youth Service is published today by

the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). The youth service

provides education and training for young people aged 13-19 years.

The quality of youth work provided by Torbay Youth Service is

unsatisfactory and the overall standards of achievement by young

people are low. However, the report does recognise that most of the

youth workers are enthusiastic and committed to the young people they

work with.

The service has significant weaknesses and is unable to meet the aims

and aspirations of its strategic plan. A legacy of under-funding

severely restricts the service's capacity to respond positively to

national targets and local priorities. The service currently

provides unsatisfactory value for money.

The quality of the curriculum and the provision made by the service

are unsatisfactory. The way the curriculum is implemented across the

service is variable. Achievement is good in a few programmes where

challenging targets are set and high standards are promoted. In

these settings, young people make satisfactory or better progress and

enjoy good relationships with their peers. However, young people

make insufficient progress in their personal and social development

across the service as a whole.

Strategic and operational leadership and management are

unsatisfactory. There are too few staff for effective managerial

oversight and control, and to assure the quality of the work. Young

people are also insufficiently involved in planning and decision

making. Elected members and senior officers recognise the weaknesses

of the service and the challenges it faces.

Recently, provision and support for young people have been extended

by the successful development of partnerships and the attraction of

external funds. There is a high quality, in-service development

programme for staff, who have ready access to opportunities for

professional development. Much accommodation is cramped and

unsuitable and there are insufficient specialist resources to

underpin the work.

The council should:

* review local authority core funding for youth work and ensure that

there are sufficient staff to meet the aims and priorities of the

youth service plan;

* raise standards of achievement and provide young people with more

opportunities to gain accreditation and qualifications;

* improve the quality of youth work practice by ensuring that all

sessions are planned and evaluated and that challenging targets are

negotiated with young people;

* provide more support for curriculum planning and improve resources

and specialist equipment;

* improve management oversight, control and accountability;

* ensure that the assessment of need and young people's involvement

in decision making inform the development of the service;

* ensure that quality assurance and management information systems

are robust and are used effectively.

Torbay Council was formerly part of Devon CC and became a

unitary authority in 1998. It has a population of 131,000 which

includes some 10,546 young people aged 13 to 19 years. Youth work is

mainly delivered through partnership agreements with three community

colleges in Torquay, Paignton and Brixham. The council invests 0.64%

of the education budget in youth work. In 2003/04, an additional

£271,084 was attracted from external sources providing a total budget

of£684,730.

The Ofsted report is available here.

In response Torbay Council issued the following press release:

Youth Service improvements planned

New measures are being put in place to improve Torbay's Youth Service following a critical report by Ofsted inspectors.

The inspection in April identified several strengths within the Youth Service, but it also highlighted significant weaknesses and stated the service provided unsatisfactory value for money.

Torbay Council has responded promptly to the criticism to ensure improvements are made in line with the inspectors' recommendations. It is also emphasising that restructuring of the service got underway even before the inspection took place.

Executive Member for Learning and Cultural Services Chris Lomas said: 'We accept the inspectors' findings and their recommendations.

'Whilst it is, of course, disappointing to receive a report of this kind, we are determined to turn things around, although it will take both time and money, so our task will by no means be easy at a time when we the Council faces considerable budget pressures.

'The new centralised structure we have put in place will help us to improve the service, to develop themes across Torbay and to provide a responsive Youth Service where needed.

'It is pleasing to note that the inspectors have recognised much of the positive work being delivered by the service. I particularly welcome the comments made about the staff's commitment and enthusiasm, and the level of progress made by some young people.

'Inspections like this are helpful in recognising good work and identifying areas for improvement. We have a considerable amount of work to do, but we have made a positive start, and we continue to strive to make progress.

'We have put more money into the Youth Service this year, although we recognise that still more is needed. Whilst we would be very keen to allocate more money, we have to face up to the financial realities.

'We will be looking very carefully at our allocation for the service when we prepare next year's budget.

'However, not all the improvements we would like to make depend solely on financial resources. We are already looking at how we can respond to the inspectors' recommendations in the most effective way for the benefit of young people in the Bay.'

Tony Smith, Director of Learning and Cultural Services said: 'We had begun to change the structure of the youth service before this inspection, creating a centralised management framework which would alter the deployment of resources and ensure more consistency.

'We have moved quickly to address some of the issues in the report, and we have already produced a draft action plan.

'Youth work will be an important part of the new Children's Services Directorate, and there is a determination to build on our strengths and improve in the areas found wanting.

'We have just appointed a Principal Youth Officer, Joe Elston, and he will drive things forward.'

The Youth Service is a partnership between the LEA sector and Voluntary Youth Services.

Inspectors found that in the best work young people achieve at a high level and make good progress. Accreditation programmes for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and the Youth Achievement Award enable young people to develop new skills and knowledge.

Young people value their improvement and attend on a regular basis. There is a broad range of provision that responds to a variety of young people's needs.

Staff are committed, enthusiastic and have appropriate qualifications. Clear strategic direction is laid out within a comprehensive Service Plan so senior officers and members are self- critical and understand the challenges ahead for it to become a good service.

High quality in-service training is available and leads to professional development. The Head of Service has provided good support and work in partnership is a strength. Clear strategic direction is set out in a comprehensive Service Plan.

The quality of youth work is unsatisfactory and too many sessions lack a clear purpose. There is insufficient stimulation and a predominance of recreational activity. The overall quality of curriculum and provision is unsatisfactory and the management of the curriculum lacks co-ordination. Premises often have poor access and there is a legacy of low core funding.

The inspection report recommends that the Council should review the local core funding for youth work and should ensure there are sufficient staff and resources to meet the aims and priorities of the Youth Service Plan.

It says the service should raise the standards of achievement and provide young people with more opportunity to gain accreditation and qualifications. The report adds it is important to improve the quality of youth work practised by ensuring all sessions are planned and evaluated, and that challenging targets are negotiated with young people.

The inspectors consider there is a need to provide more support for curriculum planning and to improve resources, especially to equipment. There is also a need to improve management oversight to control accountability and to ensure that the assessment of need and young people's involvement in decision making inform the development of the service.

The report suggests there is a need to ensure that quality assurance and management information systems are robust and used effectively.

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