Ofsted will no longer be required to produce an annual assessment of each local authority’s children’s services, following the repeal of section 138 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.
The local authority assessments, which were drawn from relevant findings from Ofsted’s inspection and regulation of education, care and skills, and published performance data, were abolished as part of wider changes to local authority accountability arrangements across Government. The repeal of section 138 will remove an unnecessary bureaucratic burden from both local authorities and Ofsted.
Across local authorities there has been a concern that the children’s services assessment is a bureaucratic exercise that adds little understanding of children’s services in an area over and above the individual inspections that underlie it. It is seen to make little, if any, contribution to driving service improvement. Ending the annual children’s services assessment generates a cost saving to Ofsted of approximately £1.6 million per year.
Following an eight-week targeted consultation exercise, the draft Legislative Reform (Annual Review of Local Authorities) Order was laid before Parliament on 10 May 2012. After scrutiny by the relevant Parliamentary committees, and a short debate in the House of Lords, the Legislative Reform Order was approved and has been signed by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Tim Loughton, who originally announced the Government’s intention to repeal the relevant legislation in December 2010. The repeal takes effect immediately and, as a result, Ofsted will not be undertaking a children’s services assessment process this year.
The annual children’s services assessment provided, for each top tier local authority in England, a summary of the outcomes of the inspections of services and settings carried out by Ofsted during the year and an analysis of the performance data related to each authority. Ratings are awarded on a four-point scale:
- performs poorly
- performs adequately
- performs well
- performs excellently.
The 2011 the ratings were:
- performing poorly - 15 local authorities
- performing adequately - 33 local authorities
- performing well - 76 local authorities
- performs excellently - 28 local authorities
Ending the annual children’s services assessment will have no impact on Ofsted’s other inspection activity. Ofsted has already put in place a new, universal, child focussed inspection regime for local authority services for the protection of children. A new inspection regime for local authority fostering, adoption and looked after children’s services will be introduced early in 2013, and a new, multi-inspectorate child protection inspection framework (developed in partnership with the Care Quality Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons), which fully implements the inspection recommendations from Professor Eileen Munro’s Review of Child Protection in England, will follow in mid-2013. Ofsted launched consultation exercises on their proposals in these areas on 11 July.