Ofsted chief backs universal reviews

Joint area reviews of children’s services are as much about universal provision as about supporting the most vulnerable, the new chief inspector of schools has said in his first major speech.

Maurice Smith told a conference last week that it was right to “resist weighting the relative importance of the different outcomes we are asked to judge”, and said reviews were “as much about school improvement as they are child protection”.

Smith, who took over from David Bell as chief inspector on 1 January, said the 36 reviews under way or completed had not been too broad to accurately capture the quality of local provision, as some had feared.

He told the North of England Education Conference that he recognised that undertaking the reviews at the same time as corporate assessments posed challenges for areas.

Three of the first eight councils to undergo a review, Staffordshire, Calderdale and Stoke, appealed against their score, although Staffordshire has now withdrawn its action (news, 5 January).

Smith also said councils had to improve their practice in relation to looked-after children, pointing out that only half of children placed in foster care continuously for four years had stayed with the same carer for at least two years. But he praised councils for reducing the number of children on the child protection register for two or more years.

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