SPI November 2015 Update

The Standards, Performance and Inspection Policy Committee met on Tuesday 17 November in Islington.

The first substantive item on the agenda was a wide ranging discussion about sector-led improvement (SLI). Earlier this year ADCS, the LGA and Solace published a proposal for the future inspection of children’s services. This paper argued that inspection should seek to complement the plethora of SLI activities taking place in the regions. It became clear in these discussions that a wide range of peer challenge and support activities are happening and also that practice is more advanced in some regions than others. It was felt a baseline expectation / offer could usefully be worked up to ensure a degree of consistency but this should still allow regions the flexibility to focus on the challenges specific to their locality.

Members shared some examples of local programmes and approaches and reflected how valuable the peer challenge process can be for the reviewer as well as the reviewee. SLI should be about developing and supporting competent and confident professionals, so involving staff at all levels was felt to be important in order to gain different perspectives and offer development opportunities.

Collection and use of data featured heavily on the day and many regions produce a plethora of monitoring and benchmarking data. However, it is not always clear that this intelligence is being used consistently across all LAs to inform strategic decisions and frontline practice. The credibility of SLI activity in the eyes of the government and its regulators rests on the ability of the sector to hold colleagues to account when problems are identified.

Some key questions arose from these discussions:

  • All LAs and regions are grappling with the same issues to a greater or lesser extent, how can we reduce duplication and speed up improvement?
  • In the face of diminishing resources do we need to focus on a single theme or issue with a view to making a real and tangible difference to children, young people and their families?
  • How can we demonstrate that this work is improving outcomes for children, young people and their families and not simply satisfying the machinery of government?
  • Are we being too insular; who else could we link up with in this exercise?

The second substantive item on the agenda was a stocktake of all current and planned inspections in children and young people’s services. While the sector remains concerned about the scale and calibration of the SIF, it is clear that ministers are keen for Ofsted to complete the universal cycle. The inspectorate is now beginning to think about the framework that will replace the SIF in 2017 and some emerging thoughts have recently been shared - a one-week unannounced inspection of the front door which will retain a keen focus on the experiences of care leavers and incorporate deep dive case file audits. The greater proportionality was welcomed. However, concerns were raised about the burden the three new and emerging inspection regimes will add, e.g. the new Joint Targeted Area Inspection (multi-agency and single agency) and the joint inspection of SEND arrangements. All are due to be introduced in spring 2016.

The committee will be joining up with the Workforce Development, the Educational Achievement and the Families, Communities and Young People Policy Committees in 2016 to discuss areas of shared interest.

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