School ready in Wigan

School ready in Wigan

The number of children ready for school in Wigan Borough has almost doubled in the last five years.

As the Mayor of Greater Manchester urges organisations to sign up to a new pledge to help get children ready for school, Wigan’s school ready journey is already well underway.

Figures released by the Department for Education showed that last year 12,157 children in Greater Manchester started school not ready to learn. This represents 32.5 per cent of children who started school last year in the city-region. In Wigan school readiness figures have improved significantly over the last five years from 37 per cent in 2013 to 69 per cent in 2017 – higher than the 67 per cent North West average. 

Thanks to its proactive approach Wigan Council was invited to speak at the October Greater Manchester School Readiness Summit by Mayor Andy Burnham.

At the summit the Mayor said more needed to be done to bring neighbourhood services like health visitors, school visitors, GPs and schools together to identify and support those children at risk. This approach is already being utilised in Wigan through its Start Well model.

Mike Chew, assistant director for children’s integration at Wigan Council, said: “The model was set up two years ago after residents told us they wanted services to be more accessible and joined up.

“On the back of that we commissioned five Start Well Family Centres to be based in those areas facing the most difficult challenges in a bid to improve outcomes for children and families by supporting them to live well and healthy lives. This place-based model puts the emphasis on communities, ensuring services are accessible and visible. The aim is to wrap services around local communities to improve links between organisations.” 

Nowhere is the impact of this approach more evident than in the Norley Hall estate in Wigan. The local school, GP practice, church, charity and Start Well Family Centre are working together to improve outcomes for children. 

The GP practice holds drop in sessions for parents to give them the opportunity to discuss any concerns they have about their child’s behaviour or development as well as medical needs. Fur Clemt, a charity that intercepts food deemed for landfill, is helping to provide low cost meals to ensure families on a budget can afford to eat. And the church runs a number of sessions including toddler sessions, debt support advice and a youth club. 

The Strategic Lead for Westfield Start Well Family Centre is Ruth Houghton, who is also the assistant head teacher for foundation phase at Westfield Community School.

Ruth said: “Working in this place-based way ensures that we take our services to our families where and when they need them. Our work as a Family Centre is based very much on the principle of the community supporting us, not us supporting them; with everyone working together from the roots of our community to create better outcomes for families and young people.”

The next phase of Start Well will bring health visitors and school nurses together under one roof, further integrating health and social care for the benefit of local children.

Posted on Monday 11th December 2017

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