Friday, 31 October 2014

Who regulates the regulator?

I see that the Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for an urgent review of Ofsted.

The association’s main concern appears to be with school inspections. It says: “… public confidence in Ofsted has been undermined by the inspectorate’s habit of re-inspecting schools when they hit the headlines, only to downgrade them from ‘good' or ‘outstanding' to ‘inadequate'…. Councils believe this raises questions as to the validity of the inspectorate's judgments, as it is quick to re-inspect – and often downgrade – schools which are embroiled in a scandal, even if it is an historic report.”

Exactly the same thing appears to occur with Ofsted’s inspections of child protection arrangements. It was only this week that the BBC TV documentary, Baby P: the Untold Story, revealed further unanswered questions about the Ofsted reports conducted just before and just after the Baby Peter scandal broke; and why they were so radically different in their conclusions. The documentary revealed that files associated with these inspections had been mysteriously deleted and quoted an anonymous Ofsted inspector as saying it was a cover-up.

The idea that an inspection report could be prepared by moving from conclusion to analysis to evidence, instead of the other way round, is deeply disturbing, but there now seems to be more than just a prima facie case for Ofsted to answer. It is not clear who regulates the regulator, but I believe that some independent audit of Ofsted practice is urgently required.