News that Slough Council has completed steps to outsource its children’s services to an independent trust – as it has been ordered to do by the Children’s Minister, following two findings of ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted – puts me in mind of the children’s party game where everybody dances around and then rushes to sit down when the music stops.
You can go around and around and keep putting your backside down on different chairs, but just having a different name and a few different people at the top is not a substitute for understanding why services are failing. Rather than having ‘solutions’ based on myths and fantasies, such as the myth that outsourcing is a magic cure for all ills, it would make much more sense to have a little bit more investigation and analysis and to generate learning that could be applied elsewhere as well.
I loved the bit in Children and Young People Now's article on this subject where it says that part of the deal is that the trust will gain an Ofsted rating of “good” within three years (which it may well do) and achieve a rating of “outstanding” by 2020. Of the 59 Ofsted inspections undertaken between November 2013 and June 2015 precisely NONE (0%) were found to be outstanding, so either this independent trust knows something that the rest of us don’t or there are going to be some disappointed people in Slough!
It all goes to show how easy it is to write high sounding ambitions into an outsourcing contract in the almost certain knowledge that they are very unlikely to be achieved.