SPI February 2016 Update
Update for the February meeting of the ADCS Council of Reference
The Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committee met with the Association’s Workforce Development Policy Committee on Friday 8 January in Islington, London.
The timeframe for completing the Single Inspection Framework (SIF) cycle has already been extended to April 2017 due to capacity issues in the inspectorate. Ofsted has suggested local authority staff could support the SIF process by becoming associate inspectors or through secondment. Given the likelihood this deadline will extend further based on the numbers of authorities yet to be inspected it seemed appropriate for the Association to consider this issue. The Chair of SPI briefly updated the committee on a recent meeting with the inspectorate as a backdrop to this discussion:
- Ofsted is reviewing the requirements around training and the minimum number of SIF inspections required in order to ease the burden on any LA officers willing to support the process
- Multi-agency SEND inspections will begin in May 2016 and be carried out over a five year period
- The multi-agency JTAI has recently been piloted and it is anticipated six LAs will be inspected from spring 2016 onwards. The JTAI can also be applied just to the local authority.
Opinion was largely divided on this matter however the group felt that the completion of the SIF must be prioritised over the development and introduction of other inspection frameworks; in an age of dwindling resources Ofsted needs to focus efforts on its core priorities. To that end the group felt Ofsted could cease their ‘Getting to Good’ improvement activities as the sector could easily step into this space.
The SPI Policy Committee has previously discussed two possible approaches to sector-led improvement (SLI): allow each region to develop initiatives according to regional needs and priorities; or, stipulate core activities that each region must undertake. The later approach may be difficult as each region is at a different point on their SLI journey and has different challenges and/or priorities.
The committee felt more information was needed to establish if there’s any kind of correlation between the regional SLI models and impact in terms of performance and inspection work prior to considering a move towards greater standardisation.
The group then considered a brief report on the performance and information management capacity in LAs. The committee recognised the need for quality data and discussed the role of social workers vs business support staff in ensuring that data is accurately inputted onto systems. While not all of the recommendations were endorsed in the meeting the committee felt that maintaining/ establishing a clear link back to the service and ensuring data professionals have the specialist knowledge to understand and interpret complex specific data is critical in the delivery of ‘SMART’ services to children,
young people and their families. The Workforce Development Policy Committee will look at this in greater detail at a future meeting.
Finally the group discussed the commonalities between the growing number of memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the use and deployment of agency social workers that have been developed in individual regions to identify if they could be used on a larger scale.
The West Midlands’ MoU, for example, has now been in operation for a year. Its development was driven by DCSs and CEOs due to concerns regarding the quality and escalating cost of the agency social work workforce - in the 18 months prior to the MoU being established, hourly rates for agency social work staff increased by more than a third. The West Midlands memorandum is supported by a quarterly data return from both LAs and the recruitment agencies. The region has also established a quality record for social work agency staff, which tracks their employment history and assists with tracing references.
The Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committee will meet again in March in conjunction with the Educational Achievement Policy Committee in London. The Workforce Development Policy Committee will meet in April.
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