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Plan to reduce inspections for top performing children's services dropped

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Ofsted has abandoned a proposal to inspect well performing children’s services less frequently over fears it could to lead to a quick decline in standards.

A report published today details Ofsted’s response to a consultation on proposals to replace a single inspection framework for all councils with a “proportionate” approach targeting local authorities that require improvement.

Ofsted last year proposed changing the frequency of inspections of services rated good or outstanding from every three years to five years.

But consultation respondents raised concerns that past performance was not necessarily an indicator of current or future performance as the quality of services could deteriorate quickly.

Some also argued that Ofsted would be less able to highlight and share good practice if inspectors spend less time with good local authorities.

The reports said: “We have carefully considered the merits of a proportionate programme that would result in some local authorities being inspected less frequently.

“However, we do not intend to pursue this approach because we share concerns raised by respondents about the risk of standards declining quickly – our recent inspections have shown that this can happen.”

Ofsted said it would press ahead with new proposals for inspecting councils previously judged to be underperforming. These include standard or short judgement inspections every three years that result in graded judgements and visits focused on particular areas of provision to provide a narrative report on strengths and weaknesses.

Under the framework, Ofsted would also consider councils’ self-evaluation of social work practice and review data and intelligence when deciding on the timing and focus of inspections.

Ofsted say the framework would continue to be piloted throughout this year, with full publication of its plans due in the autumn ahead of implementation in January 2018.

The regulator today also announced that a range of social care settings would be subject to a single inspection framework from 1 April this year, with the aim of supporting inspectors to focus on the impact providers have on the lives of children over time.

Currently there are several variations in inspection guidance for providers across different settings, as well as differences in criteria used by Ofsted to make judgements.

The new framework will apply to children’s homes, independent fostering agencies, voluntary adoption agencies, and residential family centres.

Also included would be residential holiday schemes for disabled children, boarding schools and residential special schools, and residential provision for further education colleges.

The framework is underpinned by three principles: to focus on the things that matter most to children’s lives, to be consistent in expectations of providers, and to prioritise work where improvement is needed most.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: ”We will continue to enagage…as we implement and evaluate [the framework].”

Ofsted national director of social care Eleanor Schooling said: “For the first time, we are setting out the same expectations for all social care establishments and agencies while still recognising the unique work that they do.

“We think this not only makes it clearer and more consistent for providers but also sets out how our inspections will consistently focus on the difference providers are making to children’s lives.”

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