Ofsted faces criticism over botched inspection

Ofsted faces criticism over botched inspection

Ofsted’s controversial new framework for rating child protection and care services has been criticised after one of the first inspections was found to be “seriously flawed”.

CYP Now has learned that despite initially being told it had achieved an overall “good” rating, Sheffield Council was later informed by Ofsted that a further inspection visit would be required because the initial findings were flawed.

Following the additional visit the authority’s overall rating was judged to be “requires improvement”.

So far five inspection reports using the new framework have been published. More have been carried out but are awaiting publication.

Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said inconsistency in the quality of inspections carried out so far is “extremely concerning”.

“I think the experience of local authorities in the first phase is that Ofsted needs to do quite a lot of work to ensure it is operating consistently,” he said.

“You always expect teething problems when you introduce a new inspection regime.

“But the consequence of inspectors that are new to the process and inconsistency in the quality is extremely concerning given the inspections are subject to limiting judgments.

“What we have seen in some parts of the country with the previous regime is that the Ofsted judgment can have a negative effect on the stability of the workforce and that is a key issue in improving quality.”

Of the first five inspections, Slough was rated “inadequate”, Hillingdon and Sheffield were rated as “requires improvement” and two authorities – Derbyshire and Hartlepool – were rated as “good”.

Jayne Ludlam, executive director for children, young people and families at Sheffield Council, said that although the inspection proved to be a valuable learning tool for staff and management, she feels the authority was harshly judged.

She told CYP Now that initial feedback from Ofsted following the inspection – which ran from 19 November to 11 December – was that five areas were “good” and one area (the sub-category of adoption performance) “required improvement”, but the overall grade was “good”.

However, following moderation the overall judgment was lowered to “requires improvement”.

Ludlam said she challenged the decision, only to be told by Ofsted that they had now deemed the inspection to be flawed, and an additional three-day visit would commence the following day (28 January).

“We had the national lead and two senior inspectors with us, who took a very different approach to the first inspection – they were more focused on documents, and took a forensic approach,” she says.

“The initial inspection was very immersed in practice, the inspectors went out with staff and got to know the city very well.

“I felt it was fair, challenging and balanced.

“During the re-inspection, the inspectors just sat looking at documents.

“They judged three areas as ‘good’, and two [the sub category of adoption performance, as well as the key judgment category of children looked after and achieving permanence] as ‘requires improvement’, with an overall grade of ‘requires improvement’.

“It feels we have been very harshly judged.”

The inspection framework has proved controversial since its conception.

Sector leaders have previously raised fears that the new “requires improvement” rating – which replaced the “adequate” grade under the previous inspection frameworks – will sap morale and result in more councils appearing to be underperforming on child protection.

The first set of single inspection reports are to be reviewed by Professor Eileen Munro of the London School of Economics.

An Ofsted protocol sets out how to deal with the “very rare” occasions when inspections are “considered to be so seriously flawed that they are deemed to be incomplete”.

It states that inspections can be considered flawed if:

  • Key judgments that might affect the overall outcome of the inspection are given orally by the lead inspector at final feedback to the provider or stated in the written report, and are not substantiated by evidence gathered and recorded by the inspection team
  • The conduct of the inspection is such that the evidence gathered and recorded cannot be relied upon to provide a fair and accurate view of the provider, in whole or in part
  • The inspector or inspection team has not gathered sufficient evidence or evidence of sufficient quality to allow it to obtain a fair and accurate view of the provider, in whole or in part

Ofsted has been contacted for comment.

Source: CYPNow

Ofsted abandons complaint-driven inspections

Ofsted abandons complaint-driven inspections

Complaints against childcare providers will no longer automatically trigger inspections of settings, Ofsted has confirmed.

The regulatory body has routinely inspected settings following compliance investigations since changing its inspections process in September 2012.

But now Ofsted has said it will only inspect settings where a compliance issue has been reported when it deems necessary.

A spokesman said: “When we receive a complaint about an early years provision we consider it very carefully.

“We look at each case on its merits, in line with our published risk assessment process, and if we believe it to be necessary we will undertake a full inspection.

“Ofsted will no longer routinely inspect early years provisions at the end of a compliance investigation. Instead we will do this when we believe it is required.”

The move follows a campaign against the complaint-driven inspections by early years professionals, who called for a more “consistent, transparent and fair” relationship with the inspectorate as part of the Ofsted Big Conversation.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, was among those urging Ofsted to revise its inspections process.

She said: “We all want a robust inspection process but the emphasis on a complaint leading to a full inspection was a major concern for our members – it also meant routine inspections were put back for unacceptable lengths of time.

“There is much more benefit to Ofsted and the sector if there is time to stop and think if a full inspection really needs to be carried out when a complaint is made.

“It also means Ofsted can get back to carrying out inspections for nurseries which require improvement.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, also campaigned against complaint-driven inspections.

He said: “Common sense has prevailed and it is positive to see that Ofsted seem to be finally taking notice of the views of the sector.

“It’s vital that any changes to the inspection process are clearly communicated to the sector and we look forward to this new policy being reflected in all relevant Ofsted guidance documents shortly.

“However, while this is clearly a step in the right direction, there is still much to be done to improve current inspection processes.”

Source: CYPNow

Ofsted finds serious child protection failings in Slough

Ofsted finds serious child protection failings in Slough

Children’s services in Slough have been rated as inadequate after Ofsted inspectors found serious weaknesses in its child protection work.

An inspection report published today finds that although the council had taken action to improve leadership since similarly critical findings in 2011, the impact had been “too limited”.

“There are widespread and serious weaknesses in Slough’s child protection service,” the report states.

“As a result, children do not always receive the protection they need when they require it. Many children who are looked after by Slough do not do as well as they could in their education.

“In addition, services to help care leavers are seriously inadequate.”

Slough is the first authority to be given a rating of inadequate under Ofsted’s tougher new inspection framework.

Source: CYPNow

UK child sex abuse trafficking doubles – National Crime Agency

UK child sex abuse trafficking doubles – National Crime Agency

The number of UK-born children thought to have been trafficked for sexual exploitation more than doubled last year, the National Crime Agency said.

Fifty-six minors from the UK were flagged up as potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2013 – a rise of 155% on 2012.

It is unclear whether they were being taken out of the country or moved within the UK, the NCA said.

The government said it was unlikely the data reflected the scale of the issue.

The NCA data suggested the number of foreign children identified as potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the UK also rose by 11%, to 88.

The most common nationality or country of origin for child victims of trafficking (not just for sexual abuse) was Vietnam, followed by the UK and then Albania.

‘Human misery’

The bill will send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up”

Karen BradleyHome Office minister

The figures come from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), a government safeguarding framework which authorities and charities refer potential trafficking victims to.

The NCA said a total of 1,746 people from 112 different countries were highlighted as potential victims of trafficking in 2013 – up 47% on the previous year.

People were thought to have been trafficked for various reasons, including sexual exploitation and labour.

Nearly two thirds of those referred were female (1,122) and around a quarter (450) were children.

In total, the number of cases involving UK-born victims in 2013 rose 173% to 90; of those, 63 were children, an increase of 186% on 2012.

Liam Vernon, head of the NCA’s UK human trafficking centre, said: “Increased awareness, both of human trafficking in its various forms and the obligation of first responders to use the National Referral Mechanism, is a likely contributor to the increased number of referrals in 2013.

“We know that this is a crime which affects some of society’s most vulnerable people, and some victims will remain undetected. Equally, some of those referred to the NRM may not ultimately be classified as victims of human trafficking.

“The NCA is committed to relentlessly disrupting what is a criminal trade in human misery.”

‘Disgusting trade’

Home Office minister Karen Bradley said the figures were “unlikely to show the full scale of modern slavery nor the human suffering behind each statistic”.

“The National Crime Agency is leading an enhanced and co-ordinated response to targeting trafficking gangs, we are increasing protection for victims, and we are strengthening legislation through a modern slavery bill,” she added.

“The bill will send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up.”

The NCA figures suggested there had also been a rise in the number of UK-born adults who were thought to have been victims of trafficking.

The 27 adults flagged up in 2013 represent a 145% increase compared with the previous year.

Albania was the most common nationality or country of origin for all referrals, followed by Nigeria and Vietnam.

There was a 53% rise (to 581 people) in potential trafficking for sexual exploitation for all the adult referrals.

Source: BBC News

£30m to fund innovative reforms to children’s social care

£30m to fund innovative reforms to children’s social care

The government is to make £30m available over the next year to help children’s professionals develop innovative ideas for reforming how children’s social care is delivered.

Bids for a slice of the £30m children’s service innovation fund opened today, with the government indicating that its priority areas for the first year of the programme will be developing new models of social work practice and rethinking support for vulnerable adolescents in or on the edge of care. First announced by children’s minister Edward Timpson at last October’s National Children and Adults Services conference, the innovation programme aims to harvest and test “adventurous” ideas that professionals have to improve services for vulnerable children. As well as the £30m in 2014/15, Timpson said there would be “much more to follow” in 2015/16 “if the ideas are there to merit it”. “We’re looking for your boldest and most adventurous ideas to rise to the huge challenges we face; to drive better outcomes and better value for money. Ideas that have the potential to spark and spread innovation across the system,” he added. Timpson added that encouraging innovative models of working among local authorities is a priority because traditional working arrangements, where the least skilled or experienced social workers have the biggest responsibilities, are an “outdated practice model that also sees precious time squeezed out by bureaucracy, insufficient supervision and not enough professional development”. The £1bn invested in children’s residential care is also not delivering the results it should be, Timpson added. “Even with that huge outlay, we often don’t achieve good outcomes for these children. I’m sure we can do much better than this.” Grants of up to £10,000 will be available to develop pilot models of working or create a change programme. The Department for Education is also advertising for a delivery partner to work with throughout the programme. Timpson added: “Whether you’re a local authority, a company, a social enterprise or a not for profit organisation, we recognise the important role you have to play and we want to hear from you. Let us know what support you need to get your proposals off the ground and we will tailor help accordingly, whether by brokering partnerships, addressing regulatory barriers, providing evaluations or almost anything else.”

Source: CYPNow

Tougher Ofsted inspection finds Hillingdon ‘requires improvement’

Tougher Ofsted inspection finds Hillingdon ‘requires improvement’

The London Borough of Hillingdon has become the first council to be told that its child protection and care services must be improved under Ofsted’s tougher new inspection framework.

An inspection report published today found that although there were no “widespread or serious failures” that leave children at risk of harm, services were not of a “good” standard.

Two other inspection reports published today – for Derbyshire and Hartlepool – gave each authority an overall judgment of “good”.

The three reports are the first to be published under Ofsted’s new single inspection framework, which came into effect in November.

The new inspections assess the quality of services for all vulnerable children, with an overall department judgment based on performance in three key areas – services for children who need protection; looked-after children (including adopted children and care leavers); and leadership, management and governance.

A rating is also provided for the effectiveness of the local safeguarding children board.

Controversially, in the new framework, the “adequate” grade has been replaced with a grade of “requires improvement”.

Hillingdon’s inspection report listed 10 reasons for why it could not be rated as “good”.

These included:

  • Social workers and managers sometimes ceasing provision of help too soon
  • Important information not always being included in child assessments
  • Written care plans not always being strong enough
  • The views of looked after children are not always being recorded well

However the report did highlight a number of strengths, including the adoption service, therapeutic support for children in care, and efforts to ensure placement stability for children in care.

Sector leaders have previously raised fears that the new “requires improvement” rating will sap morale and result in more councils appearing to be underperforming on child protection.

The first set single inspection reports are to be reviewed by Professor Eileen Munro of the London School of Economics.

The single inspection framework is due to be replaced by multi-agency inspections from April 2015.

Source: CYPNow

research shows that 83 per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds are struggling to deal with issues such as school, bullying and future employment

New research shows that 83 per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds are struggling to deal with issues such as school, bullying and future employment. The Express reports findings of a study, carried out by the National Children’s Bureau and Channel 5 News, which also shows that body image is an issue, with 65 per cent of children feeling judged on their appearance.

children to be taught “attentiveness”

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has told the Independent that he wants children to be taught “attentiveness” skills to help them concentrate better in schools. He said the impact of social media is affecting their ability to concentrate for long periods of time and wants an intervention to protect their wellbeing.