Significant shortfalls in frontline social work staff and a failure to learn from serious case reviews will now rate as “priority actions” in Ofsted unannounced inspections of safeguarding.
The watchdog announced last week that it would be revising its inspection frameworks to ensure priority actions are warranted only in areas that placed children at risk of inadequate protection and significant harm. However, any children’s services department that receives “areas of priority action” will now also be graded as inadequate in Ofsted’s annual contribution to the comprehensive area assessment.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said there had been little consultation with directors over the content of the new guidance.
Ofsted and the ADCS have met at least five times to discuss the issue. But former ADCS president Kim Bromley-Derry said: “That is not the same as talking to us about the detail of the changes such as what should constitute an area for priority action and when it would be appropriate for that to limit the whole department to a poor score and when changes should be brought in.
“This is disappointing, given our willingness to help to get this right.”
Other situations that will merit a “priority action” in the Ofsted guidance include: systemic failure in managing the timeliness or quality of assessment and planning; a deficit in supervision that affects delivery of assessments and ineffective partnership working; and poor information-sharing between agencies which contributes to risk for children and young people.
Ofsted will review all unannounced inspections between December 2009 and March this year to ensure consistency in inspection reports for the whole of 2010.
Bromley-Derry said, although the document’s emphasis on practice was welcome, much would depend on what evidence was used to justify the inspector’s judgements and “how it is used to limit overall scores”.