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Ofsted says controversial scores reflect true performance

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John Goldup, Ofsted’s national director for social care, has insisted the regulator did not “raise the bar” in its safeguarding and looked-after children inspections earlier this year.

Council chief executives voiced concerns this summer that inspections had become more rigorous. The concerns were raised when the regulator issued a spate of ‘inadequate’ ratings - some at councils where this was completely unexpected.

However, Mr Goldup has told LGC that this was “entirely coincidental”.

“There has been no policy, explicitly or implicitly, of raising the bar or toughening judgments. I am categorical about that,” he said.

He acknowledged that while there had been no ‘inadequate’ ratings between April 2011 and April 2012, there had been a “high number” of such ratings in the final few months of the inspections programme, which ended in July.

“It reflected nothing except the performance in those authorities,” he said.

Asked about concerns that inspectors’ practice on the ground may have changed without direction from Ofsted bosses, Mr Goldup said: “I accept it’s a real perception. As the programme went on inspectors became more confident, and I can imagine that could feel like an impact on the way inspection was done.”

Mark Rogers, chief executive of Solihull MBC, said: “A cluster of councils ended up failing, some of which were a real surprise. One theory is that inspectors applied more rigour after three years of experience. Another could be that this has no statistical significance.”

Mr Goldup also told LGC the regulator’s new multi-agency assessments of children’s safeguarding, due to begin next year, would be based on local authority boundaries.  

He acknowledged this could put councils “in the spotlight”. 

“In media terms I recognise that however careful we are about saying this is a multi-agency system, the local authority will be in the spotlight,” he said.

“There’s a sense in which that’s right because the local authority has a specific lead role. But directors of children’s services have felt they’re held to account for things they shouldn’t be, so we’re working our way through that.”

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