In April 2013 Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector at OFSTED made an announcement regarding the way in which they inspect local government. He said that “following discussions with local government representatives and after assessing the results of initial pilots, he had taken the decision to defer the proposed new multi-agency child protection inspections involving a number of other inspectorates, that had been planned” and instead that the agency “will introduce the single inspection framework for child protection and looked after children, including the inspection of local authority fostering and adoption functions” That single inspection framework (SIF) began in November 2013 with the intention to inspect all local authorities within a 3 year period. However 2 years into that 3 year period things are not going well. The primary reason is that the Government (who sign off all that OFSTED does, including their strategic plans) has failed to fund OFSTED as they originally promised. Two significant changes to this regime have been announced in the last few days:
Nicky Morgan granted a 5 month extension to the 36 month target earlier this year.
OFSTED has scaled back its inspection team, reducing the number of inspectors by one inspector for each of these inspections.
An internal quarterly performance report put together by Ofsted covering January to March 2015 reveals that, for local authority inspections under SIF and for regulatory work, the inspectorate continues to be “significantly under-resourced against agreed budgets”. It adds that the target of 47 inspections for the year was missed by seven, and that despite extending the 3 year cycle by nearly half a year “However completion of the cycle remains at risk due to resource.”
It is clearly important for all Government departments to live within their means, and that targets are not set in stone. However this is very disturbing bearing in mind the significant role that OFSTED plays in our nation and its need to be credible as an inspector of other organisations. These Inspections are intended to objectively detect early indications of problems that could potentially lead to incidents such as the deaths of Peter Connelly and Victoria Climbie. If the Government is stripping back costs from OFSTED where else are they cutting corners behind the scenes? It seems vital that the Government are challenged over this and that they explain why they are not funding their inspector of services being provided for our children!