Thursday, 4 April 2013

How do we solve a problem like ... Ofsted?

Looking back over the blog in recent months I think I might be accused of being a bit negative about Ofsted. So I am resolved to try to be more positive in future.

So, how do we solve a problem like Ofsted? Abolish it!!

No only kidding, not quite, but nearly.

I think the time has come to create a completely separate inspectorate of child safeguarding and children’s social care. In fact I would make it more than an inspectorate and give it some powers to conduct research, sponsor safety initiatives and disseminate safety knowledge. I’d also give it some clear responsibility for quality, which, of course, goes hand-in-hand with safety. And I'd make it responsible for overseeing SCRs and organising its own investigations in very serious cases.

And I wouldn't ask it to do inspections that are process-focused, tick-box, poorly focused and judgmental; or to label a third of its 'customers' inadequate without giving a good account of why they are inadequate!!

It might be a little more expensive than having children’s services inspected by Ofsted, as at present, but not that much more. And I’m sure one of the benefits would be that overall costs would fall as quality and safety improves – the costs of low quality and poor safety are quite high.

We could call it (succinctly!) the Office for Quality, Safety, Learning and Improvement in Child Safeguarding and Children’s Social Care (maybe QualSaf for short). Its responsibilities would be to:

·       Conduct inspections of service including unannounced inspections
·       Conduct thematic inspections and supporting research
·       Conduct or commission research relevant to quality and safety in children’s services
·       Conduct or oversee enquiries into child deaths and other disasters
·       Fund and promote a confidential human factors reporting programme for child protection and safeguarding
·       Be a repository of knowledge about quality and safety in children’s services
·       Sponsor the dissemination of relevant knowledge through publication, conferences etc., including regular safety bulletins, briefings etc.
·       Promote safer practice and foster a reporting culture in children’s services
·       Contribute to and inform relevant policy discussions
·       Advise the Secretary of State on all matters relating to the safety and quality of child safeguarding

I’m going to write to my MP and to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, suggesting it. Why not join me? (But write to your own MP, not mine!)