leysdvpc@hotmail.com 01865 712299
Project Profile

C/o Dovecote Centre, Nightingale Avenue, Blackbird Leys, Oxford OX4 7BU Charity Number 1172048

Telephone: 01865 712299 – Email leysdvpc@hotmail.com

Rachel Partlett – Chairperson, Amie Prior – Secretary

Current work is evaluated using a mixed methods approach:

  • Working on a daily basis with community participants, collecting formal and informal feedback, suggestion box, number of new and returning users, referrals
  • Regular management, agency and staff meetings reviewing responses from evaluation processes. Measuring what has worked, what has not, why not, need to adapt plans and set goals.
  • Work with participants to reflect on what they have gained from engaging with our services, what personal growth individuals have achieved (distant travelled – e.g. confidence, social skills and wellbeing), significance of project, quality and value for money.

From its foundation in 1996, Dovecote project needs have been identified by local residents (initially through door to door consultation explaining the purpose of the Dovecote, a community children and families facility). We worked with and supported residents to complete questionnaires, encouraging their participation in deciding what community resources should be established in the new centre.

Experience has taught us the most effective method of obtaining responses from users is through face to face contact, taking the time to explain why evaluation is important; talking through processes whilst providing families with an opportunity for someone to listen to their views has a real impact.

This practice has shaped project developments, direction and success. It has not only helped us to gain more knowledge about the community it has assisted in helping us to learn and understand what works and how personal and collective outcomes change families, neighbourhoods and life chances.

The Need

Need for local accessible good quality support is supported in OCC Children and Young People Needs Analysis; Northfield Brook has the greatest number of children living in poverty in the City. Blackbird Leys falls within the four wards with more than 400 children living in poverty, equivalent to over 30% of the child population. Blackbird Leys is also identified as an area within the city where children are affected by multiple deprivations, along with the more deprived areas of Oxford tending to have poorer learning outcomes.

Young children and families in the Leys are experiencing multi deprivations.  Some  residents have been homeless and many are suffering from instability or other forms of disadvantage.

This reveals high indicators of social disadvantage, benefit dependency, high child density, high unemployment, educational under-achievement and low expectations amongst local families.  The population has increased from 8,500 to approximately 13,068 over the past 22 years.

The Child Well Being Index shows eight super output areas in which the project operates. Three output areas are in the top 1% of national educational deprivation, 3 in the top 2%, 1 in the  top 3% and 1 top 7% (Oxford Children and Young People’s Needs Analysis 2013).

Why project is important?

  • Good quality play experiences, supporting children and young people to achieve good physical and mental health.
  • Inclusive, safe play opportunities where children and young people develop self-confidence and life skills preparing them for a creative and positive adulthood.
  • Families, young children and children with impairments are supported to overcome social exclusions and isolation
  • Training and assistance for volunteers to support current provision, and initiate and develop new projects
  • User involvement in design, delivery and management of services to meet locally identified need rather than externally perceived needs.
  • Skilling up and local capacity building, sign posting local families to access training, support and resources to learn new skills, gain self esteem and confidence and increase wellbeing.

Achievements to date

The guiding principle underlying all our work is consultation with, and involvement of children, young people and families. A key aim is to maximise the use of the Dovecote a valuable community resource. For Dovecote to be vibrant, fun, local community resource owned by the community in which it seeks to serve – whose lives it enhances.

The focus of our project is providing young children including children with impairments access to affordable good quality, safe and secure play opportunities and experiences not normally accessible to them. When the new estate was established the Children & Families Services Manager consulted with local residents. The need for out of school play facilities was identified along with family social and parenting support groups. The outcome of the consultation was the creation of the Dovecote Voluntary Parent Management Committee made up of local parents who developed the Dovecote project, which has been successfully running for 19 years working with over 1000 families.

With the commitment and dedication of the Dovecote Voluntary Parent Committee, volunteers and staff currently we offer the following services:

  • An afterschool club running three sessions per week for 16 children per sessions aged 4 to 12 years old
  • Easter and summer playschemes for up to 40 children per session
  • Half term playschemes (subject to funding) for up to 16 children
  • Easter and summer Dovecote Afloat narrow boat project 10 children per session
  • Weekly Stay & Play sessions for young mums and dads with young children
  • Purpose built sensory room for children with impairments and their families
  • Support sessions for families with children with impairments
  • Strong partnership work with a wide range of voluntary and statutory organisations supporting vulnerable children and families
  • Partnership with Parasol to support local young children with impairments experiencing exclusion to accessing services to participate in our services providing them with the support they need
  • Setting up Leys News a free community newsletter distributed to every household in Blackbird Leys. Today the Leys news is an independent community news paper reach 5000 household every month
  • Development of Dovecote Afloat – narrow boat project bringing the magic of canals and nature to young people from the Leys
  • Provide support, training and volunteering opportunities
  • Extension of centre garden providing a larger outside play area

More than 200 children use Dovecote project and more than 170 families annually. Currently we have 11 volunteers on our management committee. Volunteers play a vital part role in the running of our project. Without their help and commitment there would not be a Dovecote project. All activities are offered to families at below cost to ensure accessibility and affordability to all young children and families living in the Leys.

It is encouraging to see young children develop; many have gone on to become volunteers helping in our project. Several have been supported to access training to become qualified play workers working in our schemes before pursuing a career within the child care sector.

Future Developments

Families project – Parents and families have identified that existing resources at the Dovecote are under-utilised. Funding for children’s services is harder and harder to find, so as a result staffing levels are difficult. Develop new parenting support groups, baby massage, new parent sessions, workshops with parents setting agenda…..

Development of existing specialist facilities (purpose built sensory room) to reach those, young children with impairments experiencing social exclusion and facing multiple barriers to engagement with services, to support their education and wellbeing.

Development of Dovecote Afloat to becoming more self supporting. Increase participation with groups working with young people and young people with impairments. Raise project profile to be seen as a vital resource for a variety of use i.e. team away days, corporate events, meetings venue, relaxing days out.

Work with Social Services to facilitate Dovecote becoming a contact centre for families with children in care.

Development of more play & stay sessions.

Raise necessary funds to employ an Outreach worker to take Dovecote services out to the community, i.e. offer support and advice on parenting, local activities and services through home visiting and groups, offering a listening ear.

Project Management

Dovecote Voluntary Parent management committee receive regular reports from the Children & Families Services Manager. We hold up to six business meeting per year along with training and informal meetings taking place when required. Committee is elected at our AGM.  Accounts are prepared by a qualified accountant and signed off at our AGM. The day to day activities of the project is managed and developed in consultation with the committee by our full time member of staff, Children & Families Services Coordinator.

Children and young people play a lead role in planning and development of project. We have two part-time afterschool club play workers and a good bank of seasonal play staff. A stay and play session is delivered once a week by one of our volunteers and a support group for parents with disabled children operates once a month facilitated by a local parent volunteer. We also have a bank of six volunteers helping to deliver and develop our narrow boat along with having a very good network of parents and supporters who are always willing to help when they can.


The cost of providing our essential services is approximately £62,500 per year.

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