Over the last couple of months we have been running a number of conferences for local authorities and nominated headteachers on the new arrangements for school inspections from September. These have gone well – with over 700 people joining us to hear about the important changes to the way we inspect schools.
The changes include doubling the amount of time we spend in classrooms observing teaching; ensuring better engagement with staff about ways of improving, and placing greater emphasis on the views of parents and pupils. We are also ensuring that our inspection resources are targeted where they can make the most difference – focusing on less well performing schools, with longer periods between inspections for those judged good or outstanding. Headteachers have told us following their pilot inspections that the new arrangements are working well – people have been positive about both their greater involvement in the inspection process and the clearer recommendations we are leaving for improvement. You can find out more about school inspections from September 2009 in this issue.
Of course, it is not just school inspections that are changing. We constantly look to improve the way we work but every few years we carry out a more significant review of inspection arrangements. This September, for example, sees the launch of the new framework for the inspection of post-16 education and training. We have listened closely to the views of learners, employers and providers when shaping the framework. The new inspections will have a sharp focus on improvement, will promote learner engagement and will encourage providers to consider the needs of employers in our changing social and economic circumstances. And like the new school inspection arrangements, indeed like all our new inspection arrangements, there will be an enhanced focus on safeguarding and equality and diversity, so that the grades for these two crucial aspects may limit the grade awarded for overall effectiveness. Looking closely at these areas in each of our types of inspection will mean we can better learn and share what is working well across the sectors in our remit.
This common core should also help us to bring together our inspection findings in a more coherent way. This is important as they will inform comprehensive area assessment (CAA) judgements about local councils’ effectiveness and the impact of public services working together in an area. So there is a greater sense than ever that the outcomes of every inspection will not only be of benefit to users and the provider concerned – but also to the wider work of councils and their partners, and people in and across localities.
In May we published three new frameworks supporting how Ofsted will contribute to CAA. Ofsted’s annual performance rating of council children’s services will contribute significantly to each council’s CAA organisational assessment and, therefore, to the score for each council overall. The annual rating will derive from a new Ofsted profile of the quality of services and outcomes for children and young people in each local authority area. This profile will draw on findings from across Ofsted’s inspections and there will be less emphasis on other performance data than in our previous assessment arrangements.
As part of the new arrangements we have also begun a new set of inspections relating to the inspection of “contact, referral and assessment arrangements for children and young people in need of protection”. During these short unannounced annual inspections, inspectors are using the scrutiny of child protection case files with council staff to assess what is really happening on the ground. These inspections will inform both the overall children’s services assessment and the timing of wider inspections of safeguarding and looked after children inspections.
And in addition to these we are also carrying out three-yearly joint inspections of safeguarding and looked after children, along with the Care Quality Commission and, as needed, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. These inspections will result in a published report in their own right but will obviously also contribute to our annual rating of children’s services and the comprehensive area assessment more widely.
In all these inspections we will take into account the views of users, staff and third sector organisations. I am confident that as well as promoting development in individual settings, these developments will produce a much more effective picture of services across local areas, which will in turn lead to accelerated improvement for all, but in particular for our potentially most vulnerable children, young people and learners.