Sector leaders have called for Ofsted to get rid of its single inspection framework, labelling it “flawed and not conducive to improvement”.
The position paper on the issue of Ofsted inspections, co-authored by the Local Government Association (LGA), Association of Directors for Children’s Services (ADCS) and Solace, called for an accountability framework that is “less reactive and more holistic than the current single inspection framework”.
It should be replaced by a “portfolio approach”, the organisations said, which would include an unannounced inspection of the contact, referral and assessment front door services. This would be on a multi-agency basis, depending on local arrangements.
If the front door inspection identifies serious concerns or inadequacies then the local authority and its partners would be subject to a wider, multi-agency joint inspection with a narrative judgment replacing the “crudely graded, overall judgment” currently in use.
The paper criticised the current inspection regime, which has so far found 70% of councils to be less than good. “This cannot be right when national data show 20 of the 29 performance indicators in children’s services have improved since 2007,” the paper argued.
It also raised concerns about how the current ‘inadequate’ judgment is counterproductive to staff recruitment and retention.
Alan Wood, president of the ADCS, said the organisation believes that the current framework “does not get to the heart of how well services are working”. “A new regime is needed, one that takes into account the input of all safeguarding partners and contributes much more positively to achieving better outcomes for children and young people,” he said.
David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said there needs to be a “back to basics” review of Ofsted.
He said there remain questions over the quality of judgments from the watchdog, particularly after it was accused of providing “false reassurances” to Rotherham residents after failing to spot the sexual exploitation of 1,400 children during inspections prior to 2014.
President of Solace, Mark Rogers, argued that currently Ofsted inspects “around artificial boundaries using blunt judgments”.
The policy paper stated the new model of accountability should be based on councils being responsible for their own performance and improvement.
Councils should also be primarily accountable to local communities rather than government or inspectorates, and should have a collective responsibility for the sector’s performance as a whole, the paper recommended.