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Extra Ofsted scrutiny for pilot volunteer

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A council which volunteered to become a testing-ground for a new Ofsted inspection regime is to see its rating downgraded after the pilot inspection unearthed a series of failures.

Northamptonshire CC invited inspectors to assess its children’s safeguarding services last month to allow the watchdog to pilot plans for a new inspection format which cover councils, police and health services.

But the authority was told that the scale of the problems that emerged during the voluntary checks meant it must now face a second, formal inspection A public report about its services will also be published next week.

A council source told LGC it expected the second round of checks to find the services “inadequate”, based on the findings of the pilot inspection. “We’ve brought this on ourselves, but we’re glad that it will give us a really clear idea of what we need to improve”, the source said. “There would have been no point in keeping our heads down.” The authority had been aware of its “shortcomings” when it volunteered, the source added.

Under Ofsted’s rules, the results of pilot checks are binding on councils – so if an authority is found “inadequate” it must keep that rating. However, no public report about the findings is made available.

One council chief executive told LGC: “If the pilot was very bad, it’s plausible that Ofsted would want to go back just so that they can publish a report. It’s about accountability – you wouldn’t want a failing authority to be failing in secret.”

Until recently the authority had combined the posts of adult services director and children’s services director, but it is now planning a restructure that will separate the posts again. The council source said they expected the Ofsted report to address the question of whether the previous structure was in part responsible for its failures.

Northamptonshire CC said in a statement: “Until we have a final report from Ofsted, we aren’t in a position to comment. We are committed being open and transparent about the results of the inspection and they will be made fully public when the final report is completed.”

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