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Sandwell complains about 'inadequate' Ofsted rating

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Sandwell MBC has issued a formal complaint to Ofsted, after the watchdog published a report that rates the council’s services for looked-after children as “inadequate”.  

The report, published today, said “too many children and young people” were not receiving adequate services, blaming this on “a combination of some critical service failures and poor practice.” It follows a critical Ofsted report published in April, which found the council was inadequate at child protection.

But the council’s chief executive Jan Britton said the latest judgement “misrepresented” the situation and was not backed up by evidence in the report itself. This showed the authority was making progress, he added.

Sandwell MBC has faced difficulties with its children’s services since 2010 when it was issued with an improvement notice after Ofsted found its safeguarding and looked-after children’s services were inadequate.

However, it decided last year to pioneer a new improvement model by setting up a partnership with the consultancy firm Impower. Today’s Ofsted report will be seen as a test of this approach, which began in November.

The report indicates the council’s improvement model is making some progress. “The council is in the early stages of implementing a revised and reinvigorated improvement plan which is beginning to show some evidence of improved practice,” it states.

“However, whilst it is too early to demonstrate fully the effectiveness and impact of these recent initiatives, some early evidence of impact is seen in addressing the high reliance on agency staff within the service and some improvements in current practice.”

Mr Britton told LGC: “The council’s improvement partnership with Impower is making good progress.  This was always going to be a long turn-around.  That’s why the partnership contract is two-and-a-half years long - we are eight months into our joint programme. 

“But the evidence I am seeing, and even the evidence in the main body of text from this recent Ofsted report, shows we are making good progress.

“I am disappointed that the headline judgement of the recent Ofsted  inspection is inadequate. I think this misrepresents the current situation and gives the council and employees insufficient credit for the progress we are making.”

He also told LGC he believed Sandwell had been “over-inspected” by Ofsted, which had carried out two inspections in the past few months.

“I think over-frequent inspections are hindering improvement in Sandwell,” he said. “We’re having to spend more time dealing with the consequences of inspection than concentrating on the improvements we’ve got to make.

“I do think Ofsted can play a valuable role in helping us to improve but I think this is too much,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the watchdog said: “Ofsted cannot comment on whether a complaint has been received. We do take complaints very seriously, investigate each one rigorously and deal with issues as quickly as possible. The inspection report is available on our website.”

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