Saturday, 13 August 2016

Spin and Hot Air from Ofsted

I struggled to find much rational, relevant or useful content in Ofsted’s consultation document on the future of social care inspection, which I have only just got around to reading.
It seems to be full of carefully crafted but essentially vacuous phrases which might be important if only somebody had taken the trouble to explain what they mean. The chief culprit is “focus on the things that matter most to children’s lives” which sounds commendably child centred on first hearing, but which unravels into virtual meaningless unless we have more information about how these ‘things’ are uncovered and validated.

Ofsted says its inspectors regularly talk to children about what matters to them, but they don’t say what methods they use to draw valid conclusions and, mysteriously, they don’t give any hint in the consultation paper about what these conclusions are. So ‘the things that matter most to children’ could be anything that Ofsted wants them to be – a very convenient catch-all that makes the inspectorate appear pro-child without having to accept that children may not agree with the way in which it goes about its business.

And two key words I would have expected to find in any document about inspecting child protection services – safety and quality – do not occur at all in the document. How anybody can write a 38-page document on inspecting children’s services without using both of those words frequently is a complete mystery to me.

Rather than focusing on how inspection could contribute to creating safer and higher quality services (a question which is intellectually challenging), the document takes an essentially superficial and bureaucratic approach that simply introduces new nomenclature (such as ‘modular inspections’) and reconfigured arrangements (such as inspecting ‘good’ authorities less and ‘inadequate’ ones more) which are frankly irrelevant to service improvement and to making children safer and happier. 

In short the whole document seems to be driven by a desire to tidy-up Ofsted’s organisation and processes at the expense of doing anything that might be truly effective. It’s all very sad.