We want Dorset to be the best place to be a child. A place where communities thrive and families are supported to be the best they can be.

Our priorities

We intend to deliver this vision by building on the work of the partnership so far and through the priorities in this plan. We will focus on improving outcomes for all children and young people through our 6 priorities:

Best start in life

We will help our children have the best start in life.

Young and thriving

We will enable our young people to thrive.

Good care provision

We will deliver good care services and support for children when they need it.

Best education for all

We will make sure we provide the best education for all our children and young people in Dorset

Best place to live

We will make sure we do all we can to make Dorset the best place for children and young people to live.

Delivering locally

We want all children and young people to be supported to have equal outcomes.

Our shared values and principles

Our shared values and principles are to:

  • always put children and families at the heart of everything we do, including how we develop and shape services
  • make sure no child or family are left behind; we will strive for equity of outcomes for our children, young people and their families
  • focus on early intervention and prevention. We aim to help early in the life of a problem and provide a graduated response to need. We want to give the right help in the right place at the right time
  • work restoratively; doing things with families instead of to them, for them or doing nothing
  • think family and work together so that children and families get a joined-up response and good transitions
  • focus on strengths within families and communities, understanding the lived experience of children
  • stay with families until we've delivered and embedded outcomes and the changes can continue
  • be inclusive; we want our children and young people to be able to get the help they need in the county that is their home
  • empower young people and families to use the information we give them to make decisions for themselves
  • deliver best value to money; spending the Dorset pound in Dorset on the things that get the best outcomes for children and families

Our future plans for working in partnership

As we develop our shared culture and approach to working in partnership further we will:

  • bring together our strategic commissioning intentions into one overarching partnership: the Joint Commissioning Strategy for Children and Young People
  • work to align our partnership workforce development and where it makes sense to do so, join up our workforce development activities so that colleagues across the partnership can work more effectively as one system
  • include parents and carers too when we develop the workforce; they have told us this is important
  • work together with each other and children and families to co-produce services that reflect the needs of communities, making sure we coordinate our activities and people only have to 'tell us once'
  • make the best use of our collective resources in times of increased demand and the challenging financial situation for all partners

Outcomes: what we want to happen

These are the 7 outcomes or conditions of wellbeing we want for all our children and young people in Dorset when we deliver our plan. 

All children and young people:

  • have the best start in life
  • are safe from harm and have the help they need
  • have a settled and happy education that means they can achieve their full potential
  • have healthy and active lives
  • are prepared for adult life
  • feel they can have their say and are listened to
  • enjoy growing up in Dorset

Our county: about Dorset

Dorset is a beautiful coastal county. Over half of Dorset is covered by the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation and 7% of Dorset is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The Dorset rural idyll can conceal hidden deprivation. There are pockets of deprivation, mostly in urban areas, but there's also some rural deprivation due to isolation and difficulty accessing:

  • housing
  • transport
  • essential services

Crime is generally low in Dorset.

Earnings are below average and house prices are high, with affordability issues for many young people and keyworkers. Dorset has no motorway but over 2,500 miles of roads. 

Dorset has relatively low birth rates and younger people often move away from the area.

Population of Dorset

The total population of Dorset is: 378,508 (2019 mid-year estimate).

This includes 74,765 children and young people aged between 0 and 19 years who represent 20% of the total population.

89,573 young people are aged between 0 and 24 years.

We have approximately 2,800 children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) supported through an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

There are 483 children in care in Dorset. There are 261 care leavers.

Schools in Dorset

We have 160 schools in Dorset:

  • 1 all-through school
  • 36 first schools
  • 2 infant schools
  • 2 junior schools
  • 10 middle schools
  • 81 primary schools
  • 4 pupil referral units
  • 15 secondary schools
  • 6 special schools
  • 3 upper schools

There are 33 different languages spoken in Dorset schools. This information is from the January 2020 school census, showing the number of children with a language other than English as their first language.

9% of school-age children are from black and minority ethnic communities (non-white British; taken from the January 2020 school census). This compares to 34.6% nationally.