Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Joint inspections of child protection arrangements - are they beyond Ofsted?

The Local Government Association is right to complain that Ofsted seems to be dragging its feet in moving towards joint inspections of child protection arrangements in England.


It is hard to see how inspections of a multi-agency response to child protection - with children's services, the police, health, education and other agencies working together to protect and safeguarding children - can work if Ofsted cannot break away from the single agency (children's services) model.

But the truth is that Ofsted's history is one of conducting institutional inspections - of schools, pre-schools, child minders etc. etc. It is very doubtful that it has the expertise and flexibility to engage effectively in more widely focused work, which has to involve much more than simultaneous inspections of different services in the same area by the respective inspectorates.

I think that we should all be calling for a complete re-think on the inspection of child protection arrangements. The first step in my view would be to relieve Ofsted of its responsibilities, while at the same time creating an inspectorate which is based around child protection expertise - instead of experience of the education sector - and which embodies management and safety knowledge and which draws on expertise from across all the agencies involved in child protection, especially children's services, health, education and the police. 

We need an agency which can make a tangible contribution to improving quality and safety. What we don't need are formulaic inspections which focus on processes and silly tick-box exercises, which are so typical of Ofsted's approach.