Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Ugh!! More from Ofsted

How depressing it is to read yet another glib document from Ofsted! 

I don’t know how many people will be fooled with this one, but it cuts no ice with me. I shall certainly be responding to the consultation and leaving them in no doubt what I think.

The headlines speak of plans for “tougher” child protection inspections.

But the main proposal seems to be just re-labelling a finding of ‘adequate’ as ‘requires improvement’. Thereafter the document weaves its merry way through bureaucratic gobbledegook that seems to me designed to lull the unwary into a false belief that there is some kinds of scientific basis for all this. Terms like ‘grade descriptors’ sound technical, but what they are in fact are just adjectives or, worse, the subjective judgements of inspectors.

But the worst thing about this document is the seemingly endless list of the characteristics of a ‘good’ service that become ever more convoluted and contrived.

For example we are told (page 8) that … “(c)hildren and young people … (should be) consistently seen and seen alone by social workers where statutory guidance requires that this should happen and it is professionally judged to be in the best interests of the child”. 

I think that all that this means is that children should be seen alone except where they shouldn’t be seen alone.

And what do you make of this entangled offering? 

Children, young people and families are offered help when concerns are first identified and, as a consequence of the early help offered, children’s circumstances improve and, in some cases, the need for targeted services is lessened or avoided. The interface between early help and statutory child protection work is clearly and effectively differentiated.” (also page 8)

I wonder how many people would recognize that if they saw it in practice! Frankly it’s just empty words. 

I can heartily agree with Eleanor Schooling, the chair of the Association of Directors of Children's Services' Standards, Performance and Inspection Policy Committee, who is quoted by Children and Young People Now as saying that local authorities require more than “… a long, potentially highly aspirational, list of descriptors to assess whether or not a service is good” and that "(t)here has to be a more precise and definitive definition of what 'good' looks like to avoid a superficial tick box approach if we are to be confident that all children have access to high-quality provision and support."

The truth of the matter is that Ofsted approaches the inspection of child protection as a kind of bureaucratic game in which the regulator draws up contrived written hurdles over which the regulated have to jump. But how these relate to the experience of any child, or to the effectiveness, cost quality and safety of the service remains a mystery. Children deserve better than that.