Ofsted will only get better, by chief inspector Christine Gilbert

We are on the verge of launching a single inspectorate for children and learners dedicated to raising standards and improving lives. The new Ofsted – the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills – gives us a terrific opportunity to focus more clearly on standards of child care, children’s social care, education in schools and colleges, as well as adult and work-based learning.

The new Ofsted will drive improvements in these services through independent inspection, regulation and advice. We will be able to monitor, inspect and report in a joined-up way and have a greater impact.

What is so exciting about this is that the new body will bring together the expertise of four inspectorates, the Adult Learning Inspectorate, the Commission of Social Care Inspection, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration and the current Ofsted.

It is estimated that the new Ofsted will touch the lives of more than one in three people in England: from the youngest children in care to adult learners improving their skills and education. A young mother attending a further education college will be able to leave her children in the college’s day care centre in the knowledge that they, like her, will be attending an institution inspected by Ofsted.

Of course, it is children and learners themselves, and those who support them directly, that bring about improvement. Inspectors play their part in this by identifying strengths and pointing out poor practice. By doing this, and engaging with children and adult learners, as well as all stakeholders, we can make a difference.

The new Ofsted is committed to doing this. It’s a new organisation but I hope you will recognise the best features of any of the four inspectorates which have touched your lives to date.

It will work hard to provide better inspection and regulation through a coherent and co-ordinated approach. It will improve clarity and reduce complexity, overlap and bureaucracy, freeing professionals to concentrate on improvement.

Currently, CSCI is concerned with fostered and adopted children’s care, Ofsted assesses their educational attainment and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration focuses on any court proceedings. From 1 April, this work will all fall under the remit of the new Ofsted. Inspectors will work much more closely together, often in the same teams they will freely exchange inspection evidence and generally build up a much clearer picture of the needs of these vulnerable children.

In the future we will ensure that our frameworks for inspection, regulation and self-evaluation focus sharply on weak provision and on the needs of vulnerable and underachieving groups.

Close engagement with those we serve – children and learners, parents and employers – will ensure that service users are at the heart of our work. The new Ofsted will listen to what children, parents, adult learners and employers say about the services we are inspecting and regulating. We will make sure that inspection focuses on the important issues raised and that service users are kept informed about our work in ways they find most helpful.

From 1 April you will be able to read more detail about the way in which the new Ofsted will work in the child social care sector in our publication The regulation and inspection of children’s social care from 1 April 2007 at www.ofsted.gov.uk

On 1 April we will be also publishing our Strategic Plan 2007-2010 which will outline our vision and proposed priorities. We want to spend time talking with stakeholders to see if they think we have got things right. I hope you will be able to take a moment to look at this and find out more about the vision and purpose of the new inspectorate. We would welcome comments and have set up an e-mail address for this purpose: strategicplan@ofsted.gov.uk 

Christine Gilbert is chief inspector, Ofsted

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This article appeared in the 29 March issue under the headline “Don’t worry, the new Ofsted will be all ears”

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