Ofsted’s inspection criteria and processes will be reviewed by the expert panel being set up to slash bureaucracy within child protection, Community Care has learned.
The full remit of the government’s expert panel is due to be announced in the next few days, however its leader Professor Eileen Munro confirmed that she intends to examine how Ofsted inspectors can “inspect for quality, not quantity”.
“It won’t be about Ofsted per se, but about looking at how we assess services when we’re dealing with relationship-based practice that is not easily captured by numerical measures,” she also said this week.
The news comes after the Department for Education confirmed that Ofsted’s role in schools would be revised. It had however remained silent on the watchdog’s role within social care.
Before the election, the then shadow children’s minister Tim Loughton said in his manifesto on child protection services that Ofsted’s framework for inspecting children’s social care would be reviewed to ensure it concentrated on frontline results. Loughton has since become junior children’s minister.
“Too much of the current inspection process depends upon data assessment, rather than personal evaluation of staff and their relationships with children and families,” his document said.
“Just as school inspectors spend time in classrooms, so care inspectors should spend time with social workers on their rounds. In addition, inspectors should be obliged to examine joint-working between social workers and other agencies to ensure that services are co-operating appropriately. And in order to ensure feedback from the profession, directors of children’s services and key social workers should able to be seconded to Ofsted and play a part in inspections of other authorities.”
Professor Munro, when speaking to Community Care before the election, said that she personally felt Ofsted needed to take on more of an improvement role as a balance was needed between inspection highlighting failings and having a responsibility to help services improve.
She also said inspectors should, in her view, go on home visits with social workers. “They need to experience the noise and the situations that social workers are having to assess and make decisions about.”
Meanwhile, Ofsted has published the first tranche of unannounced inspections since the watchdogrevised the criteria for such inspections. Unusually, there were no areas for priority action listed for any of the councils inspected.