Unique centre in Sandwell scoops prestigious national award

Published 5th October 2020

The STEPS Centre in Sandwell has seen off all competition and picked up a Municipal Journal award for Innovation in Children's Services.

The Sandwell Transition Education Partnership Service (STEPS) Centre, based in Smethwick, works with families arriving in the UK from abroad.

The STEPS Centre saw off competition from other councils by demonstrating a successful integration of different services and worked with partners to develop creative, forward thinking services for children, young people and families. 

The centre is unique in the way it provides support to new arrivals and bridges the gap between children arriving in the UK and securing a school place – making sure that the children are safe, have continuity in learning via specialist teachers and develop a good understanding of school life before starting at their permanent school. 

Councillor Maria Crompton, deputy leader for Sandwell Council is thrilled with this recognition. She said: “We are so thrilled to have won such a prestigious National Award. 

“This is one of the highest forms of recognition in local government and it’s a real honour to win the award for our innovative approach to working with children.  The staff at the centre and our partners work so hard to welcome families and help them start their new lives in the UK. Congratulations to all involved, this award recognises their commitment and hard work and is very much deserved.”

STEPS is run by Sandwell Council with support from volunteers and voluntary organisations. The centre also supports families by helping parents and carers to learn English and supports early identification of children with special educational needs and disabilities.   

Balwant Bains, headteacher at the STEPS Centre said: “It is a huge honour to be recognised on this level at the awards sometimes referred to as the Oscars for councils. 

“We are extremely proud of the work we do here at the STEPS Centre. Our staff go above and beyond but have worked particularly hard during the pandemic. STEPS delivered approximately 170 KG of food (acquired through the fare share scheme), equating to the delivery of over 500 food parcels to homes of vulnerable families”.  

The centre also worked with the Prince’s Trust business partnership to acquire 200 clothing items from Next and 41,000 masks (PPE) which have been shared across Sandwell schools. 

Since the centre opened in 2017, nearly 2,000 children from 62 nationalities have been supported and the centre was recognised by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government who agreed to fund the centre for two years.