Loughton: Ofsted must focus more on children’s social care

Ofsted is overly focused on its inspection remit within schools and needs to increase its emphasis on children's social care, according to children's minister Tim Loughton.

Ofsted is overly focused on its inspection remit within schools and needs to increase its emphasis on children’s social care, according to children’s minister Tim Loughton.

“The ethos certainly gives the impression of being more schools-focused,” he told the education select committee this morning. “Inspecting children’s social care is a far more complicated, complex and discretionary area than inspecting schools. It needs as broad a range of expertise [to reflect that] and I think there’s more that could be done.”

Loughton also revealed the government was considering sending Ofsted inspectors out on the job with frontline social workers.

“Inspectors of a school will sit in the classroom and monitor the teacher, so I think inspectors should be going out with social workers on the job,” he told the committee.

Loughton said the move would ensure that Ofsted was rating councils based more on outcomes and less on process and structure, saying this was a current imbalance in the process. He was reluctant to place the blame on inspectors, however.

“My concern is that Ofsted can only inspect the standards set out by the national government,” he said. “Its whole inspection framework has been based around that and my concern is whether we’re actually asking Ofsted to inspect the right things. I know there are some very good inspectors, but are we asking them for a quality-based inspection or a process and structure-based one?”

Loughton pointed to Ofsted’s adoption services inspections as an example of this shortcoming. According to the minister, three-quarters of adoption services receive a good or outstanding Ofsted rating, a success rate the minister said indicated a faulty inspection regime.

“The results of the Ofsted inspections are not a reflection of where I think the system is going,” he said. “It may be that those inspections are a good reflection of what Ofsted’s been told to inspect, but that’s not what I’m interested in – I’m interested in improving the adoption system.”

Ofsted said it had no comment on the minister’s statements.

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