Ofsted proposes two-week long, unannounced inspections

Ofsted inspections of local authority children's services could in future consist of a two-week, on-site, unannounced visit that will include direct observation of interactions with children and families. The new regime will focus more on listening to children.

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Ofsted inspections of local authority children’s services could in future consist of a two-week, on-site, unannounced visit that will include direct observation of interactions with children and families.

Launching a consultation on changes to local authority children’s services inspections, in the wake of the Munro Report, the inspectorate said it would also be scrutinising the contribution of all agencies and services, not just the local authority on child protection.

The new inspection regime will focus on the “child’s journey”, looking at all stages of a child’s experience from early intervention through to when a child is referred to social services and their exit from the child protection system. This would be accomplished, Ofsted said, through more time spent observing and speaking to children, families and frontline practitioners.

Ofsted’s director of social care John Goldup told Community Care: “In the new inspections, we will spend much more time talking to individual children and families and frontline practitioners about the process and less time meeting with focus groups of staff. It’s that practical re-balancing of where the time goes and what adds the most value to the inspection.

“We do need to make sure that, in focusing in this way on the experience of the individual child, we don’t lose sight of the importance of the bigger issues within services that are shaping that experience. So inspection will still be very focused on the quality of leadership and management. There’s a very direct connection between these and the experience of individual children. We need to our inspections to get that balance right. That’s what we’re consulting on.”

The new inspections will also consider whether the quality of early help could have prevented the child entering the child protection system and what impact the failure to provide such help might have had on the child.

Ofsted is also seeking views on whether to vary the period between inspections, taking into account the outcomes of previous inspection activity. For instance, the arrangements for re-inspection could be 18 months for local authorities judged inadequate, while those with satisfactory ratings could have three to five years between inspections.

The inspectorate has proposed it continue to use its four point judgement scale (outstanding, good, satisfactory and inadequate), covering four inspection judgements: capacity to improve; the effectiveness of help provided to children, their families and carers; quality of practice; leadership and management; and an overall effectiveness grade.

For children in care, Ofsted has proposed that a sample of between 20 and 25 local authorities across a spread of rural and urban areas will be inspected each year. These will take place with a short notice period, with inspectors on site for one week.

The consultation runs until 30 September and can be accessed online.

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