Councils trapped by poor Ofsted ratings, say sector leaders

9 Mar 16

The Local Government Association and Solace have slammed Ofsted for locking councils into inadequate ratings for their children’s services, and said proposed changes don’t go far enough in tackling the problem.

In response to an Ofsted consultation on the re-inspection of inadequate children’s services, the LGA and Solace said the proposed changes to inspections of child services are insufficient.

Graeme McDonald, director of Solace, said: “The current Ofsted inspection regime has often hindered rather than helped; typically having a disproportionate impact on the local authority and failing to appreciate the many agencies that all play a part in a child’s welfare.

“The reforms proposed by Ofsted do not, as yet, go far enough to remedy this.”

An LGA analysis found that Ofsted is falling significantly short of its purpose to help providers improve by inadvertently creating a situation where it is harder for authorities to achieve higher ratings.

The LGA’s analysis found that under the current system, councils given an ‘inadequate’ rating for their children services are locked behind an “insurmountable barrier” to improvement. 

Workforce morale dropped, staff resigned and recruitment of permanent, high quality staff became difficult due to negative publicity following an ‘inadequate’ judgement. Ofsted’s scoring, therefore, was not acting as a catalyst for improvement.

Roy Perry, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board said that those best placed to support councils to turn around their services are good local authorities, who can help to implement the changes needed to provide the best care and protection for vulnerable children.

Perry criticised the current system for inspecting local authorities’ care services, known as the single inspection framework, which was designed to be tougher on councils, raising the standard required to achieve each rating.

“It’s clear that the single inspection framework for children’s services isn’t working. Despite national data showing improvement in most areas of children’s services since 2007, Ofsted ratings have been falling, giving more councils poor judgements which then act as barriers to improvement.”

Solace and the LGA have proposed Ofsted checks be replaced with sector-led, multi-agency inspections. McDonald said this integrated approach would feature “robust, unannounced inspections” consisting of contact, referral and assessments across all agencies involved.

Any serious concerns or inadequacies flagged at this stage would trigger a full inspection. Thematic studies and identifying and sharing good practices across the sector would then form the bedrock of improvement, he added.

“This would not only reduce the administrative burden on all agencies involved, but allow for targeted and proportionate inspections focussed on improvement.”

Ofsted said: “We welcome feedback from all stakeholders who have contributed to our consultation. We will be considering their responses carefully and publishing the consultation outcome in due course.”

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