Intervention Level In Authorities Rated Inadequate by Ofsted

This blog post analyses what is currently happening with  LAs rated inadequate by Ofsted.


The following flowchart is taken from the National Audit Office Children in Need of Help and Protection, October 2016  which in turn derives from Putting Children First


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.



  • Cumbria  DIRECTION (making progress) 
  • Knowsley  IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 
  • Lancashire  IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 
  • Manchester  IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 
  • 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) 
  • Worcestershire DIRECTION Commissioner Trevor Doughty More


  • Darlington IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 
  • Doncaster DIRECTION TRUST (making progress) 
  • Kirklees  DIRECTION Commissioner Eleanor Brazil 
  • 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) 
  • Somerset DIRECTION  (working with Dave Hill, services to stay with council) 
  • South Gloucestershire IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
  • Surrey  IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 
  • 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.



  • OxBirmingham 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      
  • Colin Diamond promoted to interim DC March 2017
  • New CEO  Andy Couldrick (ex Wokingham and Oxfordshire) appointed to oversee Trust May 2017 






  • 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.




  • 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









  • 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




  •    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 





  • 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              


  • 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)



Ofsted April 2017   More 






  • 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 January 19th 2017

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.”

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.


At the end of 2015 Ofsted published an analysis of common weaknesses in LAs judged inadequate 

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

Parliamentary Question arms length trusts, May 2016

“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.

SEE Slough DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice September 2016, review again in March 2017. It was reported at the end of October 2016 that Ofsted would be inspecting the Trust shortly.

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.


Formal intervention lifted in Devon, March 2016 

The Local Government Association has explained   here what happens to children’s services judged inadequate by Ofsted.  Unfortunately, this is only of limited value since it dates from  AUGUST 2015, before the introduction of quarterly Ofsted monitoring inspections and also before the then Prime Minister David Cameron  set out a timetable for formal intervention.

36 thoughts on “Intervention Level In Authorities Rated Inadequate by Ofsted

  1. Pingback: Checklist LAs Ofsted inadequate + relevant links | edyourself

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  4. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    Updated February 12th with links to Leicester Lancashire and Surrey new monitoring letters. Updated February 13th with news that South Gloucestershire has just been judged inadequate (more information to follow)


  5. Pingback: LAs Not Yet Had Ofsted Safeguarding Inspection | edyourself

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