ADCS Conference: Joint inspections of children's services delayed until 2015

By Neil Puffett

| 05 July 2013

New multi-agency inspections of local authority children's services will be introduced in April 2015, Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.

Multi-agency inspections of children's services will not now happen until 2015

Multi-agency inspections involving Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons had been due to get underway last month.

But the plans were shelved in April following findings from the initial pilots.

Speaking at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) annual conference in Manchester, Wilshaw said they have now been scheduled to begin in April 2015.

“I remain committed to the principle of multi-agency inspections,” he told delegates. But he said that more work on the concept, including training of inspectors from Ofsted and other agencies, needs to take place before it can be used in practice.

“I didn’t have confidence [in the system],” Wilshaw said of the decision to delay its introduction. “We should have done a lot more work on it and we have given ourselves a bit of breathing space to do that.

“If we found that the probation or police weren’t doing a particularly good job, how would that impact on the overall effectiveness judgement? Quite honestly, up until now, that hadn’t been properly worked out.”

Wilshaw also said Ofsted is “constantly reviewing” ways of addressing the “paradox” that children in England are among the safest in Europe, yet up to 25 per cent of local authorities are judged to be inadequate for child protection services.

“It is an issue we need to do more on,” he said. “We want to be fair and equitable in all our remits, and I’m determined that will be the case in child protection as well.

However, he dismissed suggestions that Ofsted should take local resource levels into consideration when grading services.

“We would expect central government to designate adequate funding,” he said. “If they don’t do that, it is an issue that you [local authorities] have to take up with them. Ofsted’s job is not to make policy, it is to comment on standards.”

He also called on local authorities to do more to hold failing schools to account. He said that local authorities should “step up to the plate” in terms of ensuring standards do not slip in schools by holding head teachers to account by writing to academies if they have concerns, and contacting Ofsted and the Department for Education if appropriate action is not taken.

Wilshaw pledged that Ofsted would inspect schools where significant concerns are raised. “Local authorities must be proactive agents for improvement before Ofsted,” he said.

“Is there a policy vacuum on this at the moment? Yes there is. There has been this debate over the past year about the middle tier, but my view is that it is already there.

“You [local authorities] are the middle tier. If you demonstrate that you are passionate about that role, you will get a lot of support from Ofsted.”

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