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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste" in 2024..

Ok, well if not placidly then go into the new year with pride and confidence. I’ve been reflecting on 2023 and many of the challenges it held, especially for those impacted by the conflicts and violence which dominated much of the year, in Ukraine, Gaza and Israel, and elsewhere; conflicts which have seen many more families and unaccompanied children seek asylum in the UK. We’ve also seen more children in need of help who are growing up in families facing significant financial hardship and distress. And I’ve seen the sheer determination of our wonderful children’s services staff, who see the consequences of this every single day and work hard to improve children’s lives in increasingly difficult circumstances. It is a sector I feel privileged to work in, and I’m glad to be continuing that journey with colleagues into the new year.

So, as my thoughts turn to the future, the noise and hasty challenges to come, that is what gives me confidence about 2024. I feel privileged to be Chair for the ADCS Standards, Performance, and Inspection (SPI) Policy Committee, and look forward to working with colleagues and wider stakeholders to continue to improve outcomes for children through high quality services.

Inspections play an important role in raising standards for children at every stage of their lives, but the ripple effect from the layering of inspection and regulation on children’s services has arguably taken its toll on provision, cost, and our workforce. In the last year, especially since the tragic death of headteacher Ruth Perry, inspections have come under greater scrutiny – and raised questions not just about inspection of schools but also about whether the overall one and two-word judgements for children’s services, including Area SEND judgements, can really sum up the complexity of the system. These can run the risk of giving a partial or negative story, and the fall-out undermines the hard work of staff to address the very issues raised.

My attention was grabbed this month by Sir Martyn Oliver’s (Ofsted’s new Chief Inspector) focus on training inspectors on mental health awareness and empathy, and the evolving debate about how a more proportionate approach to accountability and inspection – preserving the principles of improving outcomes and high standards – can work. The systemic pressures on children’s services – not least in care provision and SEND – mean that we urgently need the right level of funding from central government so that we can build change and better lives for children. So, I hope you all go steadily in 2024 ‘amid the noise and haste’ and strive for a brighter, happier and properly funded year ahead.

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