This blog post analyses what is currently happening with LAs rated inadequate by Ofsted.
Demos calls this “externalisation rather than outsourcing.”
This is the hierarchy of possible intervention, the right hand side of the flow chart deals with “improvement” while the left hand side is about “direction.”
This is the more radical option.
The first query is “sufficient evidence of persistent or systemic failure.” If the answer is “YES”, then the Government issues a statutory direction and appoints a Commissioner to assess whether services should remain with the council.
IF the Commissioner’s verdict is that the authority is NOT capable of improvement, the next question is whether the local authority is co-operative or is resistant. If the council is co-operative, the Trust will be a partnership; if resistant, a Trust arrangement will be imposed on the council within the year. (Sandwell for example will be an imposed Trust)
(IF on the other hand the Commissioner rules that the authority DOES have capacity to improve, then the LA will move onto the right hand side IMPROVEMENT track.)
In the first instance, IF there is not “sufficient evidence of persistent or systemic failure” then the right hand side of the flow chart applies. (A local authority may also be moved onto the IMPROVEMENT track if it is assessed as being capable of improvement after persistent failure.)
There will be a Government-appointed Improvement Advisor (who may be an individual or a company) who will work with the council. Although this is not spelled out in the NAO flowchart, there is generally an Improvement Board which may be instructed to appoint an Independent Chair.
A diagnostic review will be carried out within 3 months and within 6 months there will be a report to the Government. IF sufficient progress has been made, then progress must be maintained and will be assessed at a subsequent Ofsted inspection (which is not the same as a quarterly monitoring visit) The outcome at the re-inspection stage will depend on whether the council is rated good, requires improvement or inadequate.
IF on the other hand, sufficient progress has NOT been made within 6 months, then as per the December 2015 statement, the council will be moved to the left hand side of the flowchart which deals with statutory DIRECTIONS.
I will now try to assess where each LA fits in the above flowchart, based on information already in the public domain.
LOCAL AUTHORITIES RATED INADEQUATE
- Cumbria DIRECTION (making progress)
- Knowsley IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress)
- Lancashire IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress)
- Manchester IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress)
- Tameside IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- Wirral DIRECTION (early days, has Improvement Plan)
- Birmingham DIRECTION MUST TRANSFER TO TRUST Commissioner Dave Hill
- Coventry IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (will probably be assessed as making progress?)
- Dudley DIRECTION (Commissioner says keep services with council at present)
- Sandwell DIRECTION MUST TRANSFER TO TRUST (imposed)
- Worcestershire DIRECTION Commissioner Trevor Doughty More
- Darlington IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress)
- Doncaster DIRECTION TRUST (making progress)
- Kirklees DIRECTION Commissioner Eleanor Brazil
- Rotherham DIRECTION COMMISSIONERS RUNNING SERVICES LINCOLNSHIRE IS PRACTICE IMPROVEMENT PARTNER, some improvement
- Sunderland DIRECTION WILL TRANSFER TO CHILDREN’S SERVICES COMPANY, working with Nick Whitfield
- Leicester City IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress)
- Norfolk DIRECTION (working with Dave Hill, services to stay with council for now but pace of improvement must increase)
- Bromley DIRECTION (services to stay with council for now, review by April 2017)
- Lambeth IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress)
- Wandsworth IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (early days, needs to work on Improvement Plan, working with Nick Whitfield)
- Buckinghamshire DIRECTION (making progress)
- Reading DIRECTION (ASSESSING WHETHER COUNCIL RETAINS CONTROL OR TRANSFERS TO TRUST, working with Nick Whitfield)
- Slough SERVICES TRANSFERRED TO TRUST
- Somerset DIRECTION (working with Dave Hill, services to stay with council)
- South Gloucestershire IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- Surrey IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress)
- Torbay DIRECTION. HAMPSHIRE IS PRACTICE IMPROVEMENT PARTNER
- West Berkshire IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (will probably be assessed as having made progress, based on peer review)
Map extract from the National Audit Office Children in Need of Help and Protection, October 2016 from which can be seen a cluster of local authorities in the West Midlands all under direction from the Government.
- Birmingham First declared inadequate in 2009
- Timeline criticism Birmingham children’s services
- LeGrand Report March 2014 Julien Le Grand, Alan Wood, Isabelle Trowler, Andrew Christie
- First external Commissioner, Lord Warner March 2014.
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice December 2015, appointment new Commissioner Andrew Christie, recently retired Director Children’s Services Triborough Westminster Hammersmith and Fulham Kensington and Chelsea appointed
- Ofsted June 2016 (unlike the quarterly monitoring reports for other LAS, this one mentions home education)
- Andrew Christie Briefing July 2016
- Council to transfer to Children’s Trust
- Council explains plans for Trust, September 2016)
- Ofsted November 2016 full re-inspection: some improvements have been made but many things have not improved quickly enough, still inadequate, serious and widespread failings in some services to help and protect children have not yet been tackled effectively; however, significant progress has been made in addressing serious weaknesses in identifying and reducing the numbers of children missing education; plus elective home education (EHE) data is now also secure, a significant improvement from June 2016.
- DfE Direction Letter November 2016 Andrew Christie stands down as Commissioner to take up post as the Chair-designate of the proposed Birmingham Children’s Services Trust. Dave Hill is the new Commissioner, first report due end February 2017.
- LaingBuisson Report commissioned after Le Grand Review 2014, published December 1st 2016
- Details of transfer to Community Interest Company by April 2018 (Cabinet January 2017 documents available here, see p 127 onwards)
- Director Children’s Services Peter Hay retiring, January 2017
- WEST MIDLANDS. DIRECTION. WILL TRANSFER TO TRUST BY APRIL 2018
- Bromley First declared inadequate in June 2016
- Commissioner’s Report September 2016 (Commissioner Frankie Sulke, formerly in neighbouring Lewisham: “an imposed external trust model is likely to have negative impact on the pace of improvement and reduce the momentum currently in train” ie council to retain control)
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (updated Oct 10th 2016, 6 months to improve, Commissioner to report by April 2017)
- DfE Direction Letter November 2016 Commissioner Frankie Sulke re-appointed, in view of fact that children’s services remain inadequate
- Ofsted March 2017 very recent improvements in some key areas of practice but much work remains to be done
- GREATER LONDON. DIRECTION (services to stay with council for now, review by April 2017)
- Buckinghamshire First declared inadequate in August 2014.
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice November 2014 Government appointed Improvement Advisor Ingson Ltd
- Support from David Simmonds, (Hillingdon) Chair Local Government Association Children and Young People’s Board
- FAQ Improvement Plan November 2014
- Useful summary improvement activity here
- Diagnostic Monitoring Report March 2015 from Red Quadrant recommends Independent Chair for Improvement Board
- Council To Retain Control March 2015
- Government then appointed John Goldup Independent Chair IB currently in
- Redbridge, previously with Ofsted)
- Local Government Association diagnostic assessment/peer review October 2015 + Department for Education visit to Buckinghamshire November 2015
- Audit children’s services from Ingson Ltd, January 2016
- Edward Timpson letter February 2016, must see more improvements or Commissioner will be appointed
- Ofsted September 2016 (LA is slowly making progress)
- Ofsted January 2017 steady progress but pace of improvement in some areas is not meeting expectations (summary here)
- SOUTH EAST . DIRECTION (making progress)
- Coventry First declared inadequate in June 2014.
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice June 2014 council must set up Improvement Board)
- members of Improvement Board (Initially Independent Chair IB was Mark Rogers, Birmingham, now Independent Chair IB is Steve Hart, consultant formerly Ofsted inspector)
- Improvement Board Briefing July 2016 council feels it is making progress
- Ofsted December 2016, making some progress, more to be done
- WEST MIDLANDS IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- Cumbria First declared inadequate in April 2012 and again in 2013 and May 2015.
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice November 2015 set up Improvement Board with Claire Burgess as Independent Chair
- Local Government Association to carry out diagnostic assessment services for Looked After Children by December 2015 (LGA Advisor Tony Crane, also in Leicester and Lancashire)
- Improvement Update May 2016
- Ofsted July 2016 (monitoring visit “making expected progress” in line with improvement plan)
- Ofsted November 2016 monitoring visit, “inspectors identified areas of strength, areas where improvement is occurring, and some areas where progress has not yet met the expectations in the local authority’s action plan”
- Ofsted February 2017 practice is still too variable
- NORTH WEST. DIRECTION (making progress)
- Darlington First declared inadequate in September 2015 (found “adequate” in 2012)
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice October 2015, work with Red Quadrant as Government-appointed advisor
- Set up Improvement Board, Clive Harrison from Red Quadrant acting as Independent Chair
- Ofsted August 2016 praise for leadership but issues with social work capacity and quality of assessments
- Ofsted November 2016 making steady progress in relation to August recommendations but deterioration in some further practice areas.
- NORTH WEST IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress)
The local authority and the trust are making significant progress in the areas of work covered on this visit from the low baseline identified by the single inspection of September 2015. This reflects similar progress to that seen on the first monitoring visit in August 2016.
- Doncaster First declared inadequate in 2008
- Children’s services taken out of council control in 2013 following Le Grand Review
- Independent Trust rated inadequate November 2015
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (June 2016, services for disabled children to be run by Trust)
- Ofsted September 2016 (“The local authority and the trust are making significant progress from a low baseline”)
- Ofsted November 2016 LA and the trust continuing to make progress
- Ofsted March 2017 progress evident in all areas where need for improvement was identified More
- NORTH. DIRECTION. TRUST (making progress)
- Dudley First declared inadequate in April 2016
- Commissioner Sent In April 2016 (Commissioner Eleanor Brazil also in Slough and Kirklees, previously in Sandwell)
- Commissioner’s Report August 2016 (“It does not appear necessary or desirable at this time to remove service control from the council” [ie NOT a trust] )
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (August 2016, council still failing, must co-operate with DfE advisors)
- Ofsted March 2017 continuing to make positive progress WEST MIDLANDS.DIRECTION (Commissioner says keep services with council at present)
- Ofsted declared Kirklees inadequate November 25th 2016,
- DfE Direction Letter November 2016, appointment Eleanor Brazil as Commissioner (also in Slough and Dudley, previously in Sandwell) who will assess whether the council has capacity to improve or control of children’s social care should be removed from the Council
- Kirklees to spend £450K on temporary social workers, November 2016 (Cabinet Briefing Paper November 2016)
- Kirklees Director Children’s Services resigns + staff announce strike January 2017
- NORTH DIRECTION
- Knowsley First declared inadequate in June 2014
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (October 2014 set up Improvement Board with Independent Chair Malcolm Newsam who is also Commissioner in Sandwell and previously was IC in Rotherham)
- Ofsted September 2016 (“progress has been made towards achieving the priority actions in the area of help and protection”)
- Summary from council September 2016
- Ofsted December 2016 making improvements and monitoring what still needs to be done
- NORTH WEST IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress)
- Lambeth First declared inadequate in May 2015
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (December 2015, work with Government-appointed advisor Morning Lane Associates consultancy jointly set up by Isabelle Trowler, now Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, and Steve Goodman both formerly in Hackney, see National Audit Office inquiry into potential conflict of interest, October 2016)
- Ofsted August 2016 (some progress but must improve more quickly)
- Ofsted December 2016 pace of change improved since the last visit, progress from very low base, SW turnover still too high
- LONDON IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- Lancashire First declared inadequate November 2015
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (May 2016, continue to work with Improvement Board with Independent Chair Tony Crane also chairing IB in Leicester and LGA Advisor Cumbria)
- Ofsted October 2016 (some progress, pace of improvement has increased, much still to be done)
- Ofsted February 2017, improvements in some areas
- NORTH WEST IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- Leicester City First declared inadequate in March 2015
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (December 2015) Improvement Board Independent Chair Tony Crane (also chairing IB in Lancashire and LGA Advisor Cumbria)
- Ofsted August 2016
- Ofsted October 2016 (“progress in most of these areas and significant progress in some”)
- Ofsted February 2017 some improvements, some areas yet to be improved
- EAST MIDLANDS IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- Manchester First declared inadequate in September 2014
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (March 2015, Government MAY appoint advisor, Council must set up Improvement Board including Independent Chair Edwina Grant (also with the Local Government Association and Chair of Solihull Local Safeguarding Children Board)
- Investment ahead of Ofsted, July 2016 (“From a financial perspective the Prime Minister’s announcement in December 2015 indicates potentially significant financial implications for local authorities that fail their Ofsted multiple times”)
- Ofsted October 2016 (made some progress)
- Ofsted January 2017 made some progress More
- NORTH WEST IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- Norfolk First declared inadequate in 2013
- Government-appointed Improvement Advisor Mark Gurrey February 2015 (More)
- Government appointed Commissioner Dave Hill November 2015 (current Director Children’s Services at Essex Council and President Association Directors Children’s Services )
- Dave Hill Report March 2016
- Norfolk to work with Barnardos, July 2016
- Ofsted July 2016 (pace of improvement must increase)
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (August 2016, must work with advisor and develop an Improvement Plan, no timescale specified)
- Ofsted November 2016 progress still slow, difficulties with recruitment, poorly developed strategic planning and performance management. Director Children’s Services resigns, November 2016, Interim DC Andrew Bunyan
- New interim Director Children’s Services Matt Dunkley January 2017
- Ofsted March 2017 LA has taken recent decisive action to speed up pace of improvement
- EAST. DIRECTION
- Reading First declared inadequate in 2009 and again in August 2016
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (August 2016, requires the council to co-operate with Government-appointed Commissioner Nick Whitfield, Achieving for Children Richmond and Kingston councils, who will evaluate whether children’s services stay with the authority OR transfer to an independent trust )
- Council report December 2016 suggests 1st Ofsted quarterly monitoring visit Oct/Nov (unpublished) went quite well
- Ofsted March 2017 pace and scale of improvement far too slow More
- SOUTH. DIRECTION (ASSESSING WHETHER COUNCIL RETAINS CONTROL OR TRANSFER TO TRUST)
- Rotherham First declared inadequate in December 2009
- 4 Government appointed Commissioners to run council services, February 2015
- Lead Commissioner Report January 2016 (Sir Derek Myers Lead Commissioner, formerly Kensington and Chelsea/Hammersmith and Fulham) council has made some good progress)
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (February 2016 confirms return of certain functions to the council)
- New Commissioner May 2016 (Patricia Bradwell, current deputy Leader Lincolnshire Council replaces Malcolm Newsam (MN still IB Independent Chair in Knowsley and also now Commissioner in Sandwell)
- Ofsted monitoring letter, November 2016 the quality of some social work practice remains poor. Arrangements for looked after children are delayed. Procedures are not always followed when child protection concerns arise. Link
- Ofsted monitoring letter March 2017 making continuous progress, positive organisational culture More
- NORTH. DIRECTION. COMMISSIONERS RUNNING COUNCIL SERVICES, LINCOLNSHIRE IS PRACTICE IMPROVEMENT PARTNER
- Sandwell Declared inadequate in 2009, but adequate in 2012. (“Adequate” grade was scrapped and replaced by “requires improvement” in 2013) Under new inspection regime, pronounced inadequate in 2013 and again in 2015.
- Ofsted October 2016
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice October 2016, Council must draw up plans to transfer children’s social care services to an independent trust by December with transfer towards the end of 2017. Commissioner Malcolm Newsam (left Rotherham, still IB Chair in Knowsley) to replace Eleanor Brazil
- Local press comment Concerns raised over pay and pensions with transfer to Trust
- Trust to be in place from 2017
- Cabinet to discuss formation of Children’s Trust, Memorandum of Understanding on December 7th 2016 (particularly employment arrangements)
- Ofsted monitoring letter January 2017, pace of improvement too slow
- Ofsted SEND inspection March 2017 written statement of action required
- WEST MIDLANDS. DIRECTION MUST TRANSFER TO TRUST
- Slough First declared inadequate in 2011
- Children’s Services Trust took over responsibility for the provision of children’s early help and social care functions along with specific special educational needs services on behalf of the council in September 2015.
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice September 2016 (council gets back school attendance, children’s centres and early years sufficiency and funding from the Independent Trust, to be reviewed in March 2017. Commissioner Eleanor Brazil
- Perspective from the Trust, October 2016.
- Ofsted monitoring letter, December 2016 improvements in first year of Trust but much remains to be done
- £1.4m Innovation Funding new delivery model
- Ofsted March 2017 making promising progress from a very low base SOUTH SERVICES TRANSFERRED TO TRUST
- Somerset First declared inadequate in August 2013
- 6 Directors of Children’s Services in as many years
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice November 2015 Dave Hill is Government-appointed Improvement Advisor (also Essex Council and Commissioner in Norfolk)
- Update May 2016 including link to Cabinet Briefing April 2016.
- Council now implementing three-year Children’s and Young People’s Plan
- NB Somerset Children’s Trust is a local area partnership led by the council, ie NOT an Independent Trust.
- Ofsted December 2016 Making adequate progress SOUTH WEST.DIRECTION
- Ofsted February 2017, more information to follow
- DfE Improvement Notice March 2017 must work with advisor
- Sunderland First declared inadequate in July 2015.
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice July 2015 (appointment Commissioner Nick Whitfield, Achieving for Children Richmond and Kingston councils)
- Children’s Services Company by April 2017 Alex Hopkins (ex Northamptonshire, CEO new Company) Together for Children, Sunderland incorporated March 2016 with Nick Whitfield as sole director (also known as Total Help For Children.)
- LA analysis, October 2016 currently 83 vacant social work positions, based on proposed children’s services structure
- Ofsted September 2016 (notes significant improvement)
- Ofsted December 2016 making steady progress from extremely low baseline (During September and October 2016, the local authority was subject to a major information technology systems breakdown)
- Ofsted March 2017 steady progress and improvement from a very low baseline. More
- NORTH EAST. DIRECTION. WILL TRANSFER TO CHILDREN’S SERVICES COMPANY
- Surrey First declared inadequate in 2008 (subsequently found “adequate” but then inadequate again in June 2015 (following inspection October/November 2014)
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice January 2016, Government appointed advisor Rose Durban.
- Improvement Programme links here.
- Improvement Board (chaired by Deputy Leader Surrey Council, ie NOT an Independent Chair)
- Ofsted September 2016 (5th monitoring visit since deemed inadequate in 2015, beginning to make progress, from a low starting point, west of county is better than east)
- Ofsted February 2017 continuing to make progress, more work to be done
- SOUTH EAST IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- First declared inadequate December 2016
- Comment here
- Setting up Improvement Board with external chair, and seeking advice from the LGA [link]
- Recruiting Head of Quality December 2016
- DfE Improvement Notice December 2016, LA must work with Government-appointed advisor (not named in notice)
- NORTH WEST IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- Torbay First declared inadequate in 2010 (issued with an improvement notice in January 2011, then “adequate” but inadequate again in January 2016
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice May 2016 Government appointed Commissioner John Coughlan current Chief Executive
- Hampshire to assess viability proposed new care organisation
- Improvement Plan Update October 27th 2016
- Ofsted January 2017 (2nd visit, 1st published letter, LA is making appropriate progress)
- SOUTH WEST.DIRECTION. HAMPSHIRE IS PRACTICE IMPROVEMENT PARTNER
- Wandsworth First declared inadequate in February 2016
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice August 2016, council must establish Improvement Board. Independent Chair, Nick Whitfield, Achieving for Children Richmond and Kingston councils, appointed by the Government. Government appointed advisor (?) will work with council.
- Ofsted November 2016 making positive progress from a low starting point, pace of change has accelerated but needs to be sustained
- Ofsted April 2017 making steady progress
- LONDON IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- West Berkshire First declared inadequate in May 2015
- Council investing in social work academy July 2015
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice August 2015, council to work with Government-appointed advisor “Exploring Choices.”
- Improvement Plan agreed October 2015
- Local Government Association Peer Review July 2016
- Children and Family Services Improvement Blog
- Ofsted to visit December 5/6 2016
- Ofsted end January 2017 positive improvements, further work needed to ensure consistency
- SOUTH IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
- Wirral First declared inadequate in September 2016
- Council commits to spending £2m on improvement, September 2016
- DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice September 2016, council must set up Improvement Board and work with Government-appointed advisor Tony Crane, council should aim for actions included in Improvement Plan to be delivered by end of March 2018
- NORTH WEST. DIRECTION
- First declared inadequate January 2017 (Previously inadequate in 2010, then “adequate” in 2012) More More
- DfE Direction Letter March 2017 Council must work with Commissioner Trevor Doughty who will assess whether services should remain with council. More
- MIDLANDS DIRECTION
On December 16th 2016 the Public Accounts Committee published its report into the state of child protection in England saying that the Government must end complacency over children at risk of harm, and that there was still no credible plan to improve services.
“When things are going wrong locally it must intervene earlier—and to do that, it must use the information available to monitor and address emerging problems. It is not good enough to wait for the verdict of Ofsted’s routine inspections.” http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news-parliament-2015/child-protection-report-published-16-17/
In December 2015 the Government said that children’s services in local authorities which had persistently failed in the past, would be taken over “immediately”.
Putting Children First, July 2016 said the Government would: “intervene decisively in cases of failure, removing service control from any local authority which has persistently or systemically failed and does not have the immediate capacity to improve”
The focus is therefore on assessing capacity for improvement.
The Local Government Association has also commissioned Isos Partnership to look at research into improvement in children’s services, focusing on INVESTMENT and STRUCTURES.
“It was very frequently necessary to invest heavily to turn around a poor children’s service. The level of additional investment quoted by local areas involved in the fieldwork ranged from about £1.5 million in a small authority to £35 million in a large authority.”
“Following on from the current research project, we will be undertaking a follow-up research project focusing specifically on assessing the relative effectiveness of different structural models of formal improvement support and intervention [my emphasis] This research could then feed into:
a growing evidence base of the models of support and intervention that should be considered and in what circumstances;
clearer criteria and processes for how decisions about the different types of intervention are taken, allowing for more timely decisions and fewer false starts; and
a system for ongoing monitoring of the different types of intervention so that interventions can be altered or escalated if necessary.”
Isos Partnership 2016 page 35 and pages 51-2.
See also ISOS/LGA CHILDREN’S SERVICES REGIONAL WORKSHOPS ON IMPROVEMENT IN LOCAL CHILDREN’S SERVICES published end November 2016
At the end of 2015 Ofsted published an analysis of common weaknesses in LAs judged inadequate https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-authority-childrens-services-judged-inadequate-examples-of-common-weaknesses
In May 2016 Ofsted said it would carry out quarterly monitoring visits for councils judged inadequate in terms of safeguarding and children in need of help and protection, including looked after children, missing children, and children at risk of sexual exploitation. Guidance here.
Sir Michael Wilshaw and Eleanor Schooling of Ofsted were questioned by the Government Education Committee in July 2015
“Which local authorities have had their children’s services transferred into arms-length trusts; whether these transfers cover all such services; what Ofsted reports are available on such transferred services; and what changes in performance these reports show.”
Answered by: Lord Nash 09 June 2016
“DoncasterChildren’s Services Trust took over responsibility for delivering all children’s social care functions, apart from services for disabled children and universal early help services, on behalf of the council under Direction from the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in September 2014. Ofsted inspected children’s services in Doncaster in September 2015. The judgement was inadequate overall. However, the inspection found improvement since the previous inspection in 2012, when all sub-judgements were inadequate. In 2015, all sub-judgements were requires improvement, save for children in need of help and protection, which was inadequate; and adoption performance, which was good.
BUT SEE Ofsted September 2016 Doncaster (“The local authority and the trust are making significant progress from a low baseline”)
Slough Children’s Services Trust took over responsibility for the provision of children’s early help and social care functions along with specific special educational needs services on behalf of the council under direction from the Secretary of State for Education in September 2015. Ofsted inspected children’s social care services in Slough in November 2015, less than 8 weeks after the Trust went live. The judgement was ‘inadequate’ overall. Despite the short amount of time that the trust had been in operation at the time of the inspection, Ofsted commented positively on the impact of the Trust leadership. Their report described how the pace of improvement accelerated since it was established. Encouragingly the inspectors reported that there were clear signs that the Trust understands what needs to change and there is evidence that it can deliver the required improvements.
Achieving for Children is a social enterprise company that delivers all education support and children’s services, as well as integrated health services for children with disabilities, on behalf of Kingston Upon Thames and Richmond Upon Thames councils. Prior to the creation of this voluntary trust in April 2014, safeguarding and looked after children services in Kingston were judged to be inadequate in May 2012, and child protection services were judged to be inadequate in June 2013. Children’s services in Kingston were judged to be good when they were inspected again in May 2015. Children’s services in Richmond were last inspected in March 2012 when they were rated good.”
Sir Michael Wilshaw and Eleanor Schooling of Ofsted were questioned by the Government Education Committee in July 2016:
William Wragg: Sir Michael, the Government have announced reforms that will take place where underperforming children’s services will be taken out of local authority control. What evidence does Ofsted have that this will lead to improvement?
Sir Michael Wilshaw: The picture is mixed at the moment. We were talking about this shortly before coming in. There are some independent trusts that are doing well. Doncaster is one, for example, but Slough isn’t doing particularly well. As you know, Birmingham has set up a voluntary independent trust. We will wait and see what happens there. I am pretty sceptical about whether that will work. If Birmingham has anything to do with it, it won’t go well. We wait to see whether these trusts work, but at the moment the picture is pretty mixed.
Q152 William Wragg: In your professional opinion, Eleanor, do you think that six months is enough time to expect significant improvements from a poorly performing authority? Is six months enough?
Eleanor Schooling: In six months it is possible to see whether there has been sufficient determination, and sufficient thought about what needs to happen next in order to see whether they are beginning to be on the road. Nobody is expecting the whole thing to have completely turned around in six months—that would be unrealistic—but I think that you can see the green shoots. If you look at the places that have improved quickly, they were certainly in a much better place by the time six months were up.
Q153 William Wragg: Are there any examples that really stand out where within six months they have at least changed direction?
Eleanor Schooling: I think in Kingston upon Thames they had changed direction within six months, and when we went back two years later they were good. That is a very rapid and solid improvement, so we do know it can be done. Kingston upon Thames is a similar size and population to Slough, and in terms of deprivation it is not that far away, but it was something to do with the determination of the people involved that meant that it happened in good time.
The person who worked with Kingston upon Thames is currently the commissioner in Sunderland, and we are optimistic about the work that is going on there too.