There appears to have been some important changes at Ofsted since Eleanor Schooling was appointed national director for social care six months ago. The former director of children's services at Islington Council has postponed retirement for a year to steer the inspectorate through challenging times. Last year, it had to absorb budget cuts, leadership changes and delays to the children's services inspection programme. These issues, combined with the low judgments meted out under the single inspection framework (SIF), knocked children's leaders' confidence in Ofsted.
Schooling's arrival appears to have coincided with a welcome dose of realism over the SIF. The intensity of the inspection process has stretched the resources of children's social care services and Ofsted, to the point where Schooling says it will take until the end of 2017 to inspect all councils, a year later than originally planned.
This puts to bed concerns that the remaining 60 inspections will be rushed, and helps clarify the timescales over when the future social care inspection programme will begin. Schooling says Ofsted will learn the lessons of the SIF when developing what comes next, so that the future inspection system will be lighter touch and absorb less of councils' time and resources. Meanwhile, a new proposal put forward by Ofsted could see only the failing parts of inadequately judged councils re-inspected rather than them having to undergo another full inspection.
Her attempts to introduce more "proportionality" to the inspection system should win favour with children's services leaders and help build bridges between Ofsted and the social work profession. It should also help ensure that her successor will inherit an organisation that is more realistic in its ambitions for social care inspection and less unstable than the one she joined.
Ministers' rejection of statutory PSHE fails pupils
"Appalling", "shortsighted" and "nonsensical" are some of the reactions from education bodies to the government's decision not to make the teaching of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education compulsory in schools. The widespread condemnation of the government's failure to back statutory PSHE lessons reflects the frustration among many that the decision by ministers runs contrary to many of their own policies. The government says making PSHE statutory will not tackle the "variable quality of provision". Inconsistent teaching standards is hardly a problem unique to PSHE, so what better way to enhance the status of the subject than to put it on an equal footing with English, maths and physical education?
Conversely, the government has been quick to recognise and act on the challenges facing young people today. It has developed programmes to address the safeguarding risks posed by radical ideology, online grooming, sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation. These are emerging and constantly evolving threats that will not go away. They require the state to guarantee that every young person learns about them so that the threat they pose to their wellbeing is minimised. The government's failure to deliver that puts more young people at risk.