Children’s services successfully addressing weaknesses

Inadequate ratings handed to settings and local authorities are sparking improvements across children’s services, Ofsted has concluded in its annual report.

The analysis of more than 31,000 inspections across schools, early years settings, children’s social care and learning and skills sectors in England has revealed that an inadequate rating is an “important catalyst for change”.

In total, the number of schools judged to be in special measures or given a notice to improve fell from 553 at the end of 2010 to 451 at the end of August 2011. More than a fifth of schools judged inadequate at their previous inspection were found to be good or better when inspected again this year.

Equally, weaknesses flagged up in local authorities’ social care departments had largely been addressed in this year’s round of inspections.

However, a problem with consistently satisfactory settings was also identified, with 14 per cent of schools being judged as only having a satisfactory capacity to improve.

Nearly one in five of the local authorities that had a safeguarding inspection this year were judged as inadequate, sparking concern about vulnerable children being placed at risk.

Miriam Rosen, Ofsted chief inspector, said: “Inspection is about helping services to improve so that children, young people and learners of all ages can benefit from the very best. It is therefore encouraging to see the strides being taken by some of those who have previously been judged to be failing.

“As Ofsted moves towards more targeted inspection, focusing more on those services that most need to improve, I hope we will see continuing improvement in the rate of progress being made.

“It is of great concern, however, to see the high numbers of schools, colleges and childcare providers that are consistently delivering services for children and young people that are no better than satisfactory.

“It is also particularly worrying to reflect on the numbers of local authorities that are providing inadequate safeguarding services for children. Given that they are providing care for the most vulnerable children of all, this is not good enough.”

Teaching quality was again highlighted as an area in need of improvement with 41 per cent of schools being judged as no more than satisfactory in teaching quality, while no college inspected this year was judged outstanding for teaching.

Early years and childcare settings made an improvement on last year, with just three per cent being judged inadequate, 23 per cent satisfactory, 62 per cent good and 12 per cent outstanding.

Of the 46 looked-after children services inspected, 26 were adequate, 19 good and one inadequate. All but seven of the 68 adoption agencies inspected were found to be good or outstanding, however, inspectors found too many children were waiting too long to be adopted.

Eleanor Schooling, chair of the Association for Directors of Children’s Services’ standards, performance and inspection committee, said: “It is clearly a cause for concern that a small but significant number of local authorities were graded inadequate for safeguarding by Ofsted in 2010/11. However, there are signs that the situation is improving, with only one authority inspected since April having been found inadequate and Ofsted finding that local authorities are using the information in Ofsted reports to identify necessary improvements and are generally successful in changing practice as a result.

“We believe changes to the inspection framework will help to identify some outstanding practice across the sector, and by sharing this widely alongside sector led support for those struggling to improve, we can ensure that all local authorities can aspire to provide excellent safeguarding services for vulnerable children.”