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’.