A review of Ofsted’s single inspection framework for children’s services has supported councils’ concerns that the process takes up too much of social workers’ time and that inspectors’ judgments are inconsistent.
The review, carried out by child protection expert Eileen Munro (pictured), looked at Ofsted’s first 11 inspections under the framework, which was introduced after her 2011 review of the previous inspection system.
Professor Munro praised the framework’s design, but said she found “widespread concern about the demands it puts on both inspectors and local authorities and about the reliability and validity of the judgments reached”.
Among her recommendations were that Ofsted should train inspectors better in research methods and set up a ‘consistency panel’ where inspectors would try to standardise their judgments.
“Ofsted should make the moderation process more transparent to build up confidence in the sector,” Professor Munro said.
She also called for more realism about risk management in reports to “avoid the impression that risk can be eliminated by professionals or that they can predict the future with absolute accuracy”.
The Ofsted framework incorporates inspections of protection, care, adoption and fostering, and of the work of local safeguarding children boards.
All top-tier councils are due to be inspected by 2016.
Alan Wood, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “The review confirms an important point that ADCS has been making about the burden of inspection.
“A disproportionate amount of social work professional time is required to prepare for and respond to the new single inspection framework.
“We are pleased therefore that Ofsted has indicated its preparedness to look at ways of reducing this burden and thereby improving the inspection process.”
Ofsted’s national director for social care Debbie Jones said: “Feedback from practitioners, managers and leaders across local authorities shows overwhelmingly that Ofsted is looking at the right areas of work and has the right ambition for children and young people with the new single inspection.
“The changes we will make in response to the evaluation will help us to further improve the way we deliver our inspections against the new framework.”
Ms Munro’s review concerned Ofsted inspections at:
Coventry City Council
East Sussex CC
Sheffield City Council