I have quite a lot of sympathy with the call by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) for the scrapping of the Ofsted inspection system for children’s services in England. ADCS argues that a lighter-touch and better-targeted approach is required, with more thematic inspections to identify and promulgate good practice. The organisation is also calling for a narrative judgement in the report, rather than the current ‘grades’. The report should also focus more on how services could be improved.
But my own view is that little will change while Ofsted has responsibility for these inspections. It simply has too little expertise. Its inspectors default to bureaucratic and naïve judgements. Its reports mostly lack any kind of analysis. This-is-wrong-put-it-right seems to be the overwhelming approach. There is little emphasis on improvement, learning, quality and development and far too much emphasis on standards and rules. It is completely unclear what methodology underlies its inspection regime. There are still unanswered questions about its independence from political interference.
Perhaps most critically, its inspectors do not demonstrate in their reports much knowledge about management, organisational safety or child abuse and neglect.