Sunday, 17 April 2011

When splitting-up is the right thing to do

A committee of MPs has come up with a sensible recommendation: Ofsted should be split into two, one part dealing with inspection of education and the other with inspection of children’s social care.

This conclusion is, of course, blindingly obvious, the only puzzle being why anyone should have ever wanted to subsume children’s social care inspection into a schools’ inspectorate  in the first place.

Let’s hope the government gives this matter urgent attention. But there is no reason why we need to wait for legislation in order to see some change. Ofsted could begin preparing for a split right now by doing the following:
  • Ensuring that the right kind of expertise is brought into an embryonic children’s social care inspectorate at all levels - people with substantial research and practice experience of child protection and services for looked after children are required
  • Engaging systematically with leading academics and highly experienced practitioners expert in child protection and social care
  • Conducting thematic inspections focused on identifying good practice and exploring risk of service failure and how resilience can be increased
  • Abandoning preoccupation with targets and achieving procedural compliance - by developing an inspection regime based on informing and supporting the continuous improvement in the quality of services as perceived by children and young people
It would also be good to see some real management knowledge and experience brought in. And by 'management' I don't mean administration and bureaucracy. I do mean an intelligent understanding of how to design and operate complex services in a turbulent, at times  volatile, environment.