Cornwall children’s director quits over Ofsted probe

    Cornwall’s director for children, schools and families, Dean Ashton, has resigned in anticipation of a highly critical Ofsted report.

    His resignation is the first high profile casualty of the Ofsted inspection process since the controversial sacking of Haringey’s director of children’s services, Sharon Shoesmith, in the aftermath of the Baby P case.

    Ashton’s departure follows an unannounced Ofsted visit in July and subsequent report in August, which stated further inspection of the department was necessary after it found problems with the council’s risk management practices. Another inspection was carried out last month and the report is due later this week.

    Council chief executive Kevin Lavery said: “The unannounced inspection in July raised a number of serious issues, which need to be addressed as quickly as possible. We have not yet received the final Ofsted report [from the September inspection] but we supplied the inspectors with the evidence they have used to make their judgements so we know that we have major issues to address.”

    Ofsted’s annual performance assessment in 2008 gave Cornwall’s children’s services an “adequate” grade overall. Weaknesses identified were the inadequacy of the child and adolescent mental health services and a fall in the proportion of supervised young people in education, employment and training.

    However, after its unannounced visit in July, Ofsted became concerned about the council’s assessment and risk management processes. It also slammed the comprehensive restructuring of the department scheduled for 1 September. The restructure was to include the creation of new senior social work posts. Ofsted ruled this move had the potential to reduce capacity for direct work with children and families.

    Richard Hubbard has been appointed interim director for the department and Kevin Peers has joined as interim head of improvement in the directorate. Lavery said these appointements were the first of many improvements to come.

    Neither Hubbard or Peers have so far been available for comment.

    The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) does not keep statistics on why directors have left their posts.

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