‘Inadequate’ children’s services targeted as Ofsted outlines plans to restart inspection visits

Fiona Simpson
Monday, July 6, 2020

Local authority children’s services departments rated “inadequate” by Ofsted will be the focus of visits from inspectors following the Covid-19 pandemic, the inspectorate has said.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said enforcement powers would be used to address serious concerns. Picture: Ofsted
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said enforcement powers would be used to address serious concerns. Picture: Ofsted

The visits come as part of a phased return to full inspections which will also see independent social care providers, schools and early years providers receive visits from inspectors but no ratings will be awarded.

Ofsted has announced a programme of visits to local authorities after usual protocol was suspended at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

New guidance published by Ofsted states that inspectors will carry out “on and off site” visits to local authorities and independent providers from September.

The inspectorate will publish a letter or report on the findings of visits to local authorities and independent children’s social care providers, including children’s homes, but they will not receive an official rating, Ofsted said.

However, if serious concerns are found “we will use our enforcement powers”, chief inspector Amanda Spielman said.

The guidance states: “We will make it clear if we have any serious concerns about practice and/or the experiences of children.

“When necessary, we will make requirements and recommendations for improvement.”

The visits to local authority children’s services will take place until December, Ofsted has said, but this could be extended “if measures for responding to and recovering from Covid-19 carry on into 2021".

Visits will be prioritised based on previous inspection results, Ofsted said, and other issues including:

  • those judged inadequate at their last inspection

  • those with an area for priority action

  • those we have concerns about following information received since their last inspection/visit

  • those that have not yet had a standard or short inspection under the inspection of local authority children’s services (ILACS) framework

  • timing of other activity.

“For regulated providers, the interim period will run until March 2021 (the end of the regulatory year) so that we can visit as many providers as possible under these arrangements,” guidance adds.

Visits to independent providers will be prioritised “based on the most recent inspection judgments, other information we hold about the provider, the amount of time since the last inspection and whether the provider is newly registered and therefore not yet been inspected”, the guidance states.

Inspectors will evaluate:

  • the experiences and progress of children and young people, taking into account the Covid-19 context

  • how well children and young people are helped and protected

  • the effectiveness of leadership and management, including arrangements to meet the needs of children as restrictions are ease.

Spielman added: “Our vital regulatory work in children’s social care and early years has continued throughout lockdown, even though regular inspections have been suspended. We have worked to make sure that standards are being maintained and that there is well-run, safe and effective social care and childcare available for all who need it.

“Going into the autumn, we will be making visits to a range of providers, and these will be designed to reflect the work those providers do and our regulatory role. 

“We will also be visiting local authorities and children’s social care providers, including children’s homes, to check on the experience and progress of children needing protection or care. These visits will not be graded, but if we have serious concerns, we will use our enforcement powers.”

Inspectors will also begin visiting schools, colleges and early years settings in September to assess the success of reopening following months of closures.

Full inspections for education settings are set to restart in January 2021, however, this date is under constant review, Ofsted said.

In the interim period, inspectors will use the visits to work with leaders to listen to concerns and challenge issues arising from visits with plans for a national report to be drawn up towards the end of the year.

The visits will not be graded but outcomes of the discussions with school and college leaders will be published in a brief letter which will also be issued to parents.

The visits will be piloted with volunteer schools and colleges from September, Ofsted said.

Spielman added: “Ofsted will be part of the rebuilding effort from September. Our visits will help parents understand how schools and colleges are getting children and students back up to speed after so long at home. We want to help schools by having constructive conversations and not passing judgment. We all share the same aim – helping this unique generation make up for lost time and get the high-quality education they deserve.”

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