Ofsted inspections are producing “arbitrary, unjust and destructive results” and need reform, according to a letter to ministers signed by 25 children’s home bosses.
The letter calls on education secretary Michael Gove and children’s minister Edward Timpson to adopt seven reforms to the way children’s homes are inspected.
It accuses Ofsted of delivering “narrowly prescriptive” and “inconsistent” judgements that threaten care homes’ ability to innovate and help children, especially those with the most complex needs.
The letter says the government should require Ofsted to:
- Ensure homes are assessed against regulations instead of “one-size-fits-all” models of care and restart its improvement advice function
- End its “unreliable and unstable” grading system since this threatens the sustainability of homes
- Only use enforcement notices when statute has been breached
- Use clinically qualified or aware inspectors when assessing homes that cater for children with complex needs
- Only update regulations and inspection guidance once a year and issue this information, along with timescales for implementation, to all children’s homes at the same time
- Have inspections and assessment frameworks that are based on rigorous evidence
- Seek to engage “the hope, optimism and creativity” of providers and “build on their commitment to real improvement in the lives of children”
The letter says these reforms will be “more effective in improving the real performance of the residential children’s sector than the current bureaucratic, prescriptive and confrontational approach, which often seems to us to produce arbitrary, unjust and destructive results”.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We have been clear that only good or outstanding care is acceptable for children and young people living in residential homes – this is why we are overhauling children’s residential care so that all homes provide high-quality care and are safe, secure homes for our most vulnerable young people.
“It is absolutely right for Ofsted to take a more rigorous approach to inspection and to expect the highest of standards, and we are working with them to improve their inspection and intervention powers.
“We are also improving the accountability and transparency of residential care, ensuring that homes open and operate in safe places, and improving processes and communications between local authorities when children are placed out of area.
“We will continue to work closely with the residential care sector as we take forward these important reforms.”
Signatories of the letter include the bosses of Back on Track Children’s Services, Hillcrest Care, Northern Care and Oracle Care.