Senior local government figures have agreed to work with the Department for Education and Ofsted to “establish agreed roles and boundaries” relating to the improvement of councils’ children’s services.
The pledge is made in a memorandum of understanding signed by the LGA, Solace and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.
The document says the three groups will “work at a national level with [the] DfE improvement and intervention team and with Ofsted in establishing agreed roles and boundaries in relation to the improvement of children’s services.”
It comes amid signs that the government is taking an increasingly interventionist role in cases where councils are struggling to improve services, as funding for sector-led improvement is withdrawn.
Last month the DfE ruled that Doncaster MBC should cede control of its children’s services to an independent trust and in June it ordered Hampshire CC to take over the running of the Isle of Wight Council’s service.
Mark Rogers, chief executive of Solihull MBC and Solace’s lead on children’s services, told LGC Ofsted was also planning to play a greater role in helping councils to improve if they had failed one of its inspections.
“I’m acutely uncomfortable with Ofsted’s move into post-inspection improvement,” he said. “I’m thoroughly unconvinced it has the capacity to be involved in that space.
“But if it is determined to go ahead, then at the very least it needs to listen to us so we can help it to understand what it has bitten off.”
The memorandum of understanding also stressed that councils were “primarily accountable to local communities”, although it said the three groups “recognised that central government through statute and regulation may also seek to hold councils to account through inspection and in some cases through intervention.”
The document was drawn up in response to the decision by DfE in April to withdraw £8.5m from the Children’s Improvement Board, a body set up to co-ordinate sector-led improvement.
LGC reported last week that the LGA had outlined plans to continue the work of the CIB on a reduced scale.