Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Costs of Inspection

Alison O’Sullivan, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), hit the nail on the head in her speech to the ADCS annual conference in Manchester when she roundly criticised Ofsted’s current single inspection framework as “broken and discredited”. She is absolutely right to argue that the framework has become “burdensome” and that it consumes disproportionate resources.

You can read full details of her speech in Children andYoung People Now.

What fascinates me is that Ofsted never quantifies the costs and benefits of its inspections. Of course it is not just the work that inspectors do that costs, but also all the work that the inspected authority has to do to accommodate the inspection. Then there are the downstream costs, if the inspection finds an authority inadequate or requiring improvement, such as the costs of staff losses and recruitment problems and restructurings and consultants – and re-inspections! In the case of some authorities all these costs are incurred without much evidence of subsequent improvement.

In a world of austerity in public finances, money spent on improving quality has to be monitored just as much as money spent on other things. I believe money would be better spent trying to design quality into services before failings occur, rather than devoting lots of resources to chronicling shortfalls and failings when these have already occurred.  

It's always cheaper and less painful to get it right first time.