Under the proposed framework, Ofsted will evaluate how effectively local authorities discharge their school improvement functions, particularly in areas where schools are not yet good or are not improving quickly enough.
Ofsted wants to introduce the local authority inspections to ensure that all children and young people have access to a good quality education irrespective of where they live.
In a speech to delegates at the North of England Education Conference last month, HM Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said that despite year on year improvements, it was unacceptable that 30 per cent of schools, educating 2.3 million children, fell short of being good. He said that Ofsted was committed to investigating the reasons why parents living in local authority areas with the same demographics and levels of deprivation had such widely varying opportunities of finding a good school. In introducing this new framework, Ofsted is looking forward to working with local authorities and other stakeholders to help raise standards and improve lives.
Sir Michael announced that under the new framework Ofsted would carry out inspections where there is evidence of local authorities failing to demonstrate effective leadership or fulfil their statutory duties to promote high standards and fair access to educational opportunity for their children.
Sir Michael said:
If England has any pretentions to be a world-leading education system, we must have higher ambitions and be absolutely committed as a nation to doing something about the wide variations in standards across our country.
Ofsted is proposing to focus inspection where it is needed most, meaning that not all local authorities will be inspected within a prescribed or regular interval. A number of indicators will determine whether an inspection is required such as the proportion of children who attend a good or better school, attainment levels across the local authority, children’s rates of progress in relation to starting points, and the volume of qualifying complaints to Ofsted about schools in a local authority area.
Local authorities will be judged on how well their education and training functions promote improvement, high standards and the fulfilment of educational potential of children and young people in schools.
During inspections, Ofsted will consider:
- the effectiveness of corporate and strategic leadership of school improvement
- the extent to which the local authority knows its schools and other providers, their performance and the standards they achieve and how effectively support is focused on areas of greatest need
- the effectiveness of the local authority’s identification of, and appropriate intervention in, underperforming schools and other providers
- the impact of local authority support and challenge over time and the rate at which schools and other providers are improving
- the extent to which the local authority brokers support for schools and other providers
- the effectiveness of strategies to support highly effective leadership and management in schools and other providers
- support and challenge for school governance
- the use of funding to effect improvement, including how it is focused on areas of greatest need.
Rather than a four point scale to judge effectiveness (that is, outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate), Ofsted will instead assess the strengths and weaknesses, and the impact, of education and training functions and arrive at a conclusion of whether such functions are being exercised effectively or not.
The findings of the inspections will be published in a letter and local authorities deemed not to be providing an acceptable standard of service delivery may be re-inspected.
Ofsted seeks the widest possible range of views from those who have an interest in, or expertise relating to, local authority support services to ensure that the framework takes proper account of the needs and circumstances of all interested parties.
The closing date for the consultation is 19 March 2013 and inspections are planned to begin on 1 May 2013.
Notes to editors
‘A good education for all: inspection of local authority services’ is available online.
Ofsted has powers to inspect particular functions which are carried out by a local authority under section 136 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. This includes inspection of the local authority’s performance of its duties in relation to education and training. The Secretary of State may also require the Chief Inspector to carry out such an inspection.