Ofsted’s annual report on care, education and skills is out today, but rather than celebrate progress and successes, various groups – notably the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services – have wasted no time in putting the boot into the regulator.
The LGA says Ofsted “should be the calm, measured voice that helps to make child protection services work better rather than feeding people’s fears.”
Then, more provocatively – and obviously aimed at journalists looking for a juicy public-sector punch-up – the LGA added, “Ofsted has become too concerned about protecting its own reputation and places a disproportionate emphasis on publicly highlighting weaknesses in child protection without adequately reflecting the huge amount of good work being done by councils across the country.”
Meanwhile, the ADCS – which has a fractious relationship with Ofsted at the best of times – fuelled the fire with its own report. It said there are “very serious problems” with the current inspection model and that it is “ripe” for reform. However, ADCS did say that Ofsted should continue to inspect education and children’s services.
While regulators aren’t there to be popular, the criticism of Ofsted is stinging and with such venomous feelings towards it indicates that there are problems that need to be addressed.
For the public to have confidence in children’s services and education there has to be confidence in the regulator that governs it. If this is being undermined, it needs to be addressed quickly.
For instance, there is certainly a groundswell of opinion that Ofsted needs to get away from a perceived ‘box-ticking’ culture when it assesses services; it has been said to me that it can feel if they are being ‘marked’ during assessments.
And while Ofsted could probably do more to publicise the good work that is being done within children’s services, this is not solely their problem – the whole sector needs to be better at flagging up good work.
But Ofsted really needs to show that it can recognise criticism and learn from it – much like that it tells councils to after assessments. That way, everyone has the chance to improve and develop.