What does the word “quality” really mean when we’re talking about specialist education and the care of vulnerable children? How can it be demonstrated on the ground? We caught up with Kedleston Group’s Chief Operating Officer, Lee Reed, who explained how Kedleston approaches this vitally important aspect of providing care and specialist support.
“Quality when we’re talking about specialist education and care of some of the most vulnerable young people in society is vitally important. Our over-riding aim is for our children and young people to have the best – the best quality care and support, the best education, the best outcomes. And of course, to have the best possible chance to succeed in their lives.
“Providing the quality support to enable them to do this is a responsibility we take really seriously as an organisation. To make sure we do, we have a dedicated corporate quality resource that supports both our schools and homes, and it’s a resource we have, in recent years, heavily invested in.
“We have recruited Quality Development Managers for both education and care and their primary role is to support the schools and homes to continuously strive to meet and exceed standards and to achieve the Kedleston aspiration of all our schools and homes being ‘outstanding’. All of our schools are currently good or outstanding.
“To help us ensuring we have excellent governance across our schools and homes, and that they deliver exceptional quality care and support we have, over the last three years, completely overhauled our approach to governance under the direction of Lynda Mitchell (Director of Quality and Compliance). Starting with the Board, feeding through our executive team and through to the individual schools and homes, quality and governance are embedded at every level.
“Our approach gives us a clear understanding at Board level of the issues and challenges individual schools and homes are facing. This means that intervention and guidance, or closer monitoring and oversight, can be provided quickly and effectively if and when needed.
We encourage a culture of openness and transparency at all levels of the organisation. As part of that we introduced a Quality and Compliance Committee (QACC) about two years ago, which is chaired by one of our non-executive directors, giving greater oversight of the schools and homes. We look closely at weekly operational overview reports from all settings, covering all key events involving children – both positive and negative. This lets us act quickly and highlight any matters that might need further action.
The QACC doesn’t just review issues, it also shows how our systems and processes for ensuring quality and compliance can be enhanced, identifying and encouraging new and innovative ideas with a consistent view to improving the outcomes for the children placed with us.
Our quality approach also sees us review risk at both local individual school and home and corporate levels, helping us identify trends across the group, to take any further action that’s needed and put any extra support needed in place.
We also audit thoroughly every term across Education, Care, HR, Safeguarding and Health and Safety to help us ensure good governance and excellent quality.
The most important views and feedback come from the children. At each governance meeting we make sure that at least one of the non-executive directors attending and a member of the corporate leadership team meet with members of the school council to hear their thoughts on what they think we are doing right and of course, what they think we are doing wrong. This forum, along with the school or home’s own internal meetings with the children, provides Kedleston with a lot of feedback that allows us to shape and constantly improve the child’s experience in school or their home.
Some children prefer other ways of raising any issues or concerns, this may be via an advocate or the independent Regulation 44 inspectors who make themselves available to the children. Of course, this is in addition to the children’s social worker and independent review officer who are also regular visitors.
Families are also engaged with regularly. We seek the views of parents and carers, both in a formal way as well as through the on-going day to day conversations and relationships that form school life. Prior to COVID-19, we actively encouraged visits to schools – it’s the best way for families and carers to really get to know the team supporting their child. However, along with many other aspects of our day to day life we have temporarily moved to using technology to keep in touch whilst COVID-19 remains a problem.
Technology also helps us drive quality. We have increasingly invested in new software packages such as Sleuth, SOLAR and PeopleHR that help us record a considerable amount of data ranging from day to day activities in school both positive and negative through to evaluating the progress children are making within education to managing our increasing workforce. This allows us to monitor, evaluate and evidence practice. Continuing to build upon this remains a key focus for us going forward.
“I made reference earlier to the importance of listening to the children and ultimately, in children’s services what quality truly comes down to is the children’s experience with us. Theirs is a voice we actively listen and respond to at every opportunity. Whether this is through the ‘pupil voice’ sessions, house meetings in the residential houses, including the children at each governance meeting, regular questionnaires and day to day involvement with them, listening to them and talking to them is at the core of driving quality and improving our offer to them.”