The new Ofsted inspection regime will focus on frontline social work practice through engagement with staff rather than tick-box assessments, a senior official said.
Anna Lis, deputy director for children at Ofsted, said that staff would be given the opportunity to “tell us as it is” under the comprehensive area assessment, being launched across England this year.
Speaking at the British Association of Social Worker’s annual conference last week, Lis said: “We need to move from focusing on processes towards evaluating the effectiveness of services in improving outcomes for children.”
Ofsted’s contribution to the new regime is expected to consist of unannounced safeguarding visits to each council every year, focusing on referrals, investigations and assessments, with comprehensive inspections of all local agencies every three years. It replaces the previous system of annual performance assessments, a desk-based evaluation which critics argued relied heavily on ‘tick-box’ data, and joint area reviews.
The approach was welcomed by Andrew Webb (below), director of children’s services at Stockport Council, who said the new system should focus on the quality of practice, particularly in child protection, rather than meaningless deadlines.
“Timescales are good, but I’ve never seen a shred of evidence that if you complete an assessment in 35 days it is much better than if it takes 37 days.”
“Too stuck in process”
As a member of the Association of the Directors of Children’s Services, Webb said he had raised concerns that Ofsted’s original CAA proposals were “too stuck in process”.
Inspections needed to take account of the “complexities and pressures of local areas”, he added.
Call for direct observation
Also speaking at BASW’s conference, Tim Loughton MP, shadow minister for children, proposed asking inspectors to accompany social workers on visits.
He said: “It is difficult to see how inspectors can verify the quality of assessments without direct observation – lessons could be learned from the inspection of schools where inspectors observe teachers in the classroom.”
Ofsted: further details in May
Ofsted is considering its proposals for the CAA framework in the light of Lord Laming’s report on child protection, and will publish the revised arrangements in May.
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Comprehensive area assessments – more information from Ofsted