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Ofsted shake-up 'may mean more failures'

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A proposed shake-up of Ofsted’s inspection of children’s care services could spark a surge in authorities receiving damning reports, a senior watchdog official has admitted.

Under one proposal, revealed in an Ofsted letter seen by LGC, councils’ children’s care service ratings would be downgraded to ‘inadequate’ when looked after children underachieve at school.

The letter, from watchdog schools director Michael Cladingbowl, admits the change “may lead to many more authorities being judged inadequate overall”.

The letter was sent to Ian Thomas, director of children’s services at Derbyshire CC, who had called for Ofsted to avoid rating councils or schools as “outstanding” if they failed to make sufficient progress on supporting children in care.

But Mr Thomas said Ofsted’s proposal was “absolutely not” what he had been calling for.

“To introduce it at the inadequate end of the spectrum rather than the outstanding end would be ridiculous,” he said.

Mr Thomas’ concerns have been echoed within the sector.

Eleanor Schooling, director of children’s services at Islington LBC, and chair of the standards, performance and inspection committee of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said she opposed the downgrading of whole services because of a weakness in one area.

Ofsted has already indicated it would apply this approach more widely, Ms Schooling said.

“We have told Ofsted that we don’t support this. You may get a tick-box assessment that doesn’t look at the bigger picture,” she said.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said the watchdog could not comment while a consultation was ongoing.

Meanwhile, another proposed change in Ofsted’s children’s care service inspections could see two-thirds of authorities given ratings that are seen as ‘a failure’. Under this change, the watchdog will replace its ‘adequate’ rating with a new verdict of ‘requires improvement’.

Mark Rogers, chief executive of Solihull MBC and chair of Solace’s children’s policy network, said ‘requires improvement’ would be seen as a ‘failing rating’.

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • An unintended consequence of excessive 'hard ball' playing could be that inspections being held in mild contempt. Clear statements of the levels and standards required and a reasonable time to achieve may not suit the impatience of the ill concealed political agenda.

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  • Sir,

    In reference to your article, Ofsted shake-up ‘may mean more failures’ (27 February), I would like to clarify that Ofsted is not proposing that the achievement of looked after children in schools should be considered as a limiting judgement when inspecting local authority’s children’s services.

    I agree with Mr Thomas that all should focus on the education of attainment of children in care and care leavers. Ofsted’s school inspection framework takes this into account already when evaluating pupils achievement. As of February, inspectors will report specifically on the performance of English and maths of pupils supported through the pupil premium also, which includes children in care.

    Yours sincerely

    Michael Cladingbowl HMI
    National Director for Schools

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  • To clarify,

    The letter from Ofsted said the following:

    "If the educational attainment of children looked after were to be limiting in this way for example, it may lead to many more authorities being judged inadequate overall. This may in the end be the course of action we decide to take. At this stage, however, we are still thinking and talking with you and your colleagues."

    LGC sent the text of the letter to Ofsted ahead of publication.

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