Friday, 31 October 2014

Open season on Ofsted

It seems like the knives are coming out for Ofsted. 

I read in Children and Young People Now that Alan Wood, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), has said that in some cases Ofsted's inspectors lack experience of children's services. Having read a lot of Ofsted reports of inspections of child protection arrangements, I have often wondered about the experience of the author, and now it seems that ADCS is thinking along the same lines.

Wood said that the inspectorate needed to change its recruitment policy to attract people who had substantial recent experience of children’s services.

The other question that occurs to me is what experience and knowledge of management do Ofsted inspectors have? I think the very naïve and formulaic tone of some Ofsted reports could only come from people who don’t really understand management issues well. Perhaps ADCS would like to reflect on that as well.

Wood also said that inspections resulted in significant financial costs for the inspected authorities and that they are disruptive. Those are well known negative side effects of inspection, but it’s good to see that ADCS is bringing them to public attention.

Speaking at the same conference, Ofsted’s head of social care inspection, Debbie Jones, defended her organisation. Children and Young People Now reports that she called for a debate about how together Ofsted and local authorities could build together a system that could ‘help families’ and that is responsive to the current difficult financial situation.

I’m sorry Debbie, but I can’t think why anybody would want to come to Ofsted for ideas about how to build better organisations, when the most common sort of recommendation found in Ofsted reports is of the this-is-wrong-put-it-right variety.

Take some of the big issues such as recruitment and retention: I’ve never heard Ofsted suggest how that could be done better. Or what about cost control? You never see any analysis of costs or spending in Ofsted reports. Nor have I ever seen anything about waste reduction, value-adding, continuous improvement, lean synchronisation,  organisational learning, team building, job design, motivation … I could go on and on!

Perhaps she is talking about more ‘robust’ management?