Ofsted chief defends children’s homes inspections framework

Ofsted has hit back at concerns over its new framework for inspecting children's homes, insisting it is "not vastly different, just clearer".

Ofsted has hit back at concerns over its new framework for inspecting children’s homes, insisting it is “not vastly different, just clearer”.

John Goldup, Ofsted’s social care director, made the assurances following claims from providers that Ofsted’s new inspection framework –  in force from April – would make it difficult for children’s homes to achieve anything more than a satisfactory rating.

One provider said an Ofsted inspector had confirmed this during a recent inspection. Providers pointed out this could have a disastrous impact on the sector as councils will only place children in homes rated good or outstanding.

But Goldup said this was “not Ofsted’s view, position or intention”. “We don’t believe that will be the effect of the new framework. It will focus on the quality of services and we make no apologies for that, but the framework does not raise benchmarks.

“We have consulted extensively and tested and piloted. Fears and anxieties in difficult conditions are understandable but they are not supported by the outcomes of piloting or testing. There is no evidence of the framework leading to a collapse in ratings.”

He also rubbished claims raised by some children’s homes bosses that inspectors would be required to consider whether homes offered “value for money”. “I’ve heard this spoken about but it is categorically not true. We don’t think it’s our place to judge that. We look at whether the home is adequately resourced to meet the needs of the children in its care but that’s all.”

Goldup said the changes made had simply clarified how quality and outcomes would be judged in line with the government’s new National Minimum Standards for children’s homes, which come into force in April.

The new national standards demanded outcomes be judged based on the difference that had been made to children’s lives. “So in our inspections, for example, there will be more emphasis on listening to children’s experiences and observing the quality of relationships between children and staff. We will look at whether children are safe, but also whether they feel safe; as well as whether they are supported to develop healthy lifestyles and achieve educationally and so on.”

He added: “It is an ongoing challenge for the sector to be really clear about what difference it is making to children and how it will evidence this. The question for us all is, how do you translate excellent practice into excellent outcomes?”

Ofsted’s role in this will include more practice-based reports, highlighting the best practice that makes a difference to children, he said. It follows the publication of Ofsted’s most recent report, Outstanding children’s homes.

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