Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
CBE, JOHN GOLDUP
22 MARCH 2010
Q100 Ms Buck: Is there a potential
worry that you have these different levels of advisory arrangements
supporting the local authorities? Is it better for local authorities
to have specialist skills coming from different parts of the system,
or should we really be looking to integrate all those labels of
inspection and advice more closely?
Christine Gilbert: Local authorities
felt that they didn't have an easy point of contact. They had
it for schools, and what had happened over time was that essentially
what used to be the Chief Inspector, Schools met what was then
called the link HMI. They would meet them and have some discussion.
But I remember going to a meeting of East Anglia's directors,
and there they were saying that they wanted somebody who could
give a broader overview. They themselves, the directors, would
want to see these people. And that is what is happening with this
new system. As I say, it has been going about three months, so
it is a bit early to say.
Q101 Chair: Who is giving the
broad overview under this new system?
Christine Gilbert: We have regional
directors, which we have had for several years but with a slightly
different role; but essentially three regional directorsone
based in Manchester, one in Bristol and one in Nottingham. They
link in with the relevant government office in their areas. But
they don't go in and out of the local authorities; that is a link
Chair: I share Karen's worry about anything
that the regional offices are getting involved in, but never mind.
Q102 Helen Southworth: I don't
disagree with your last comment. Can I take you on to a discussion
on the process for your new inspection framework. Some people
have accused you of being process-driven in the way you're approaching
inspection. In particular, they have said that the annual performance
assessment is an isolated eventa desktop exercise. Can
you fill us in on what engagement you have with local authorities
on the annual performance assessment?
Christine Gilbert: The annual
performance assessment was essentially desk-driven, and that is
what we stopped a year ago. It looked at data of various sorts.
Now, we look at the inspection outcomes; we look at the inspection
of schools, children's homes, colleges and so on in an area. We
look at the results of the unannounced inspection and the rolling
programme, if there's been one. The third element is the data.
The first two have been the most important. We look at the picture
that is emerging from those elements to arrive at the annual children's
Q103 Helen Southworth: Chair,
before I go on to the next question, I would like to put on record
that I will be referring to my own local authority in Warrington.
Ofsted has saidI think everybody agrees with this comment
and would support itthat "Managers and staff across
the council and partners demonstrate motivation and commitment
to providing quality services for children and families."
I want to open with that comment, because I want to look from
the perspective of the children who need safeguarding in local
authority areas and of the staff who are trying to provide a quality
service for those children and who are very dedicated and committed.
I want to ensure that they get the support and the information
that they need to do that. I want to refer to the annual performance
assessment for Warrington for December 2008 and to the ratings
in it. The assessment rated the overall effectiveness of children's
services at three, which is good. It rated a number of other areas,
including staying safe, at three, which is good. The capacity
to improve, including the management of services for children
and young people, was rated at four, which is outstanding/excellent.
I want to contrast that with the report produced 11 months later,
following an inspection that had taken place in November 2009,
nine or 10 months after the previous assessment. The report said
that safeguarding services, outcomes for children and young people,
including ensuring that children and young people are safe, the
quality of provision, and leadership and management were "inadequate".
It said that the services for looked-after children were "adequate",
but that the leadership and management were "inadequate".
There is a very serious difference between the two documents.
In terms of outcomes for the children, Ofsted's 2008 report found,
"The council performs very well in relation to securing permanency
and stability for looked after children and in ensuring that their
needs are reviewed on time." It goes on to say, "The
council demonstrates a clear commitment and determination to close
the gap between outcomes for children and young people who are
vulnerable or in the less advantaged areas of the borough".
But less than a year later, the outcomes for children and the
overall effectiveness of safeguarding services in Warrington were
"inadequate". The report said, "Inadequate action
is taken to ensure that initial and core assessments, child protection
enquiries and child protection plans are effective. This results
in poor outcomes for some children." It also says, "There
are substantial weaknesses in the safeguarding of children and
young people most in need of protection" and "There
are substantial weaknesses in the safeguarding of children and
young people in need of protection". It notes that "There
are unacceptable delays in undertaking and completing initial
and core assessments, with the result that some children, including
those on the edge of care, remain at risk." It adds that
"For some children, there has been an unacceptable delay
in identifying the need for them to become looked-after|Child
protection planning is poor|the absence of systematic planning
means that some children do not receive an appropriate level of
protection." Which of those reports was right, and how were
the staff supposed to deal with the difference between them?
Christine Gilbert: The assessment
that's just taken placethe most recent oneis based
on inspection. The reason I changed the approach to our assessment
of children's services is that I felt that the previous approach
was based too much on data and was insufficiently focused on what
was going on on the ground. I made that clear in the proposals
that I published in September 2008, and would have done it earlier
if I could, as the directors will tell you. I wanted a very different
approach. What happened with Warrington is that there was an unannounced
contact assessment referral inspection, and Warrington did very
badly. There were some very serious concerns. Children looked
to be at risk, and a number of very basic things didn't seem to
be happening effectively, so much so that we decided that it needed
a full safeguarding and looked-after children inspection. That's
exactly what we did. We followed it up with the longer two-week
safeguarding and looked-after children assessment. The full safeguarding
inspection reinforced the things that had been seen in the shorter
24-hour inspection. I think there's no argumentthe authority
wouldn't argueabout the things that were seen on the ground
during that time. I said when I had to do the press coverage in
December that you couldn't compare the results from one year to
another, because it was two markedly different approaches to the
assessment of children's services, this one much more rooted in
inspection and what was being seen on the ground. Data can tell
you so much, but it cannot give you the whole picture.
Q104 Helen Southworth: But those
were both Ofsted inspections.
Christine Gilbert: They're a different
approach to inspection. The first, as I saidthe annual
performance assessmentwas essentially data-driven. I changed
Q105 Helen Southworth: Can you
give us an absolute, categorical assurance that there are no other
authorities where your assessment is data-driven, and that every
authority is based on proper inspection that has the involvement
of all the stakeholders in the process? Currently, today, does
every authority have that level of inspection to rely on in terms
of its own planning?
Christine Gilbert: No. We won't
finish the unannounced inspections until July this year. It's
a one-year programme that we finish in July; we have inspected
87. We have got more to do of the rolling programmeit is
a three-year rolling programme, and we have only done 15 of those
Q106 Helen Southworth: Is that
Christine Gilbert: Well, it's
as good as we can make it, given the resources that we have. We
have looked at those areas that were worrying us most. I should
say that there were areas that weren't worrying us that we also
inspected, before that one goes up. We looked at
Q107 Helen Southworth: Well, in
fact, yes, because you had given Warrington an "outstanding"
and "excellent" for its capacity to improve, including
the management of its services for young people.
Christine Gilbert: But when we
did the unannounced inspection, we went in pretty quickly afterwards
to do the rolling programme and looked at that. As I said, I don't
think Warrington itself is complaining about what we found. They
say what we found is absolutely as they see it. They are not arguing
with our findings at all.
Q108 Helen Southworth: How many
other authorities have had that kind of variation between performance
ratings? It would be very helpful to know that.
Christine Gilbert: I don't know.
I'd have to look back and see.
But you can see my statements on record that these are assessing
different things. There were more authorities in December classified
as inadequate under the new system than the previous December.
Q109 Helen Southworth: But in
terms of safeguarding children, it isn't really good enough to
say, "We've changed the way we did it and we're measuring
different things," if you haven't done that in every authority.
Christine Gilbert: We can't do
everything at once, so we're doing it systematically.
Miriam Rosen: I'm not quite sure
whether you appreciate that we stopped the APA a year ago, so
those assessments no longer take place.
Q110 Helen Southworth: You have
stopped the assessments, but you have not reassessed. What I am
hearing from you is that the annual performance assessments were
flawed, so you have stopped doing them. Is that right?
Christine Gilbert: They were data-driven.
I have always said that I thought they needed more of a focus
on inspection, to see what was absolutely happening on the ground.
I also have to say that, even with inspection, things don't stand
still. Things change, people leave
Q111 Helen Southworth: What I
am asking you, therefore, is this. Are there a number of local
authorities that have only had an assessment that is based on
data, or has every authority had a proper inspection that is based
on engagement and the involvement of all the stakeholders?
Christine Gilbert: We use the
joint area reviews, as Miriam has said, but the things that we
assess are also different. So we now look at the outcomes
Q112 Helen Southworth: I understand
that. Has every authority had that?
Christine Gilbert: I'm not only
talking about the inspectionsthe unannounced inspections
and the safeguarding inspections. In the range of things that
we look atthe profile for the local authoritywe
now look, for instance, at what inspectors are saying about the
children's homes, in a way that we didn't before. We look at what
is being said about special schools. So we are looking right across
Q113 Helen Southworth: So has
every authority had an inspection that has looked right across
the piece and engaged all the stakeholders?
Christine Gilbert: No, not with
the new system. By the end of July, we will have inspected
Q114 Helen Southworth: Then are
you secure and confident that every current Ofsted assessment
of every local authority is giving a clear picture of that local
Christine Gilbert: We think inspection
gives a clearer picture. We cannot do everything at once. We have
got a three-year rolling programme. We have tried to make an assessment
of risk, to look at those areas that we were most concerned about
and to go in and look at those first. For instance, there was
an area that also might have looked quite good under the old
Q115 Helen Southworth: Perhaps
I can ask you in a different way. Have some authorities currently
got an Ofsted assessment that is based on the desktop paper exercisethe
Christine Gilbert: Yes, but it
is different from the one that operated before, because it is
rooted in inspections, and the one that operated before
Q116 Helen Southworth: But you
said to me before that every local authority hadn't had an assessment
that was based on inspection and the engagement of stakeholders.
Christine Gilbert: We look at
every area of our inspection of children's services; as I say,
it might be children's homes, schools or nurseries. We present
a profile, which is giving, if you like, an aggregated picture
of what inspectors have seen on the ground. For instance, one
area had a number of children's homes graded as inadequate and
that would show, in the profile that we were looking at, that
there was something going wrong there. We would then make sure
that we sent that to the local authority.
Q117 Helen Southworth: So has
every authority had that assessment?
Christine Gilbert: They have had
the first bit of it; they haven't all had the unannounced and
the rolling programme.
Q118 Chair: Chief Inspector, let
us suppose that someone from outsidesomeone who pays your
salary, such as the people I represent or the people whom Helen
representslooked back. What you are really saying, reading
between the lines, is that we had a pretty ineffective Ofsted
system of assessing children's services, because it was desktop
and inaccurate. That is what you are saying. You are saying now
that a year ago you put it right.
Christine Gilbert: But I have
said that consistently, that things are of their time. I came
into Ofsted and that system was in operation. It was data-driven,
but there was, as Miriam said, a joint area review or JAR.
Q119 Chair: Chief Inspector, that
is what we are trying to drill down on. I think that it looks
to an outside observer that because of Baby Peterit may
not only have been because of that case, but Baby Peter and a
couple of other high-profile casessuddenly you realise
that what you're doing is giving comfort to the local authority
children's services department that they were pretty good and
indeed they were outstanding in some categories. So Haringey,
Warrington busily carry on doing their business thinking they're
pretty good. Actually, when there is a crisis, and a child dies,
and you're sent in to do a new inspection, you do it in a totally
different way. That's what happened, isn't it, chronologically?
Christine Gilbert: Absolutely
it's not what happened, chronologically. We presented proposals
for change. The APA (Annual Performance Assessment) came to the
end of its life and I presented proposals for change before the
Baby Peter case emerged in the Decemberthe proposals were
out for consultation. As I said to you, that did not mean that
I didn't go back and look hard at what we had proposed, to make
sure that what we were proposing was fit for purpose. And we did
things like double the number of days. We were going to go in
for a day's unannounced and we went in for two.
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