Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Serious Case Reviews - a poor tool for learning?

Drawing on a report prepared in October 2009, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales Annual Report 2008-2009 makes some interesting remarks on the value of Serious Case Reviews (SCRs).

The inspectorate (CSSIW) says that "...there is a high level of agreement across Wales about the fact that the current arrangements are not working".  It complains of the "...huge amounts of time and resources ... spent in conducting these reviews ... with little clear evidence to show how they are leading to improvements in systems and practice ...." The report concludes: "Time and again serious case reviews identify the same issues as contributing to not protecting children, yet still the problems keep recurring."

What a contrast in thinking here with the approach of Ofsted in the October 2009 report Learning lessons from serious case reviews: year 2. Ofsted has somehow contrived to turn what might have been valuable research into the effectiveness (or non-effectiveness) of SCRs into a tick-box, process-focused exercise comparable to marking GCSE coursework. CSSIW, on the other hand has recognised that the whole point is whether or not SCRs promote learning which improves services which make children safer.

The Ofsted report lectures us on how to write a good SCR while forgetting what the purpose of an SCR is. Its pedantry is unmistakable in the examples of comments it gives on SCRs judged to be "outstanding" (paragraph 101), which concentrate on whether reports addressed issues thematically, whether sub-headings were used, whether summaries are clear and whether the reports were well written.

Maybe the inspector was a former teacher? I'd give Ofsted 3 out of 10 and say "Must try harder".