Child sexual exploitation in Rotherham: Ofsted and further government issues - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

2  Ofsted


8. When she gave evidence to us on 13 October last year we asked Professor Jay, "Do you think Ofsted failed the children of Rotherham?" she replied, "To some extent, yes."[15] Professor Jay's Report gives more detail.

·  In December 2009, following a critical report rating Rotherham children's services as 'inadequate' on the grounds that the safety of children could not be assured, the Department for Education served an improvement notice.[16] (We learned subsequently that the inspection that triggered the intervention had followed a "very narrowly focused two-day inspection"[17] and that the notice did not mention child sexual exploitation.[18])

·  In July 2010 Ofsted conducted an inspection of safeguarding and looked after children. Safeguarding services were deemed to be 'adequate' in their overall effectiveness and capacity for improvement. The partnership between children's social care, the Police and the voluntary sector was described as carrying out effective and creative work to prevent sexual exploitation, with cross-agency training.[19]

(At that time, however, child sexual exploitation was still going on.[20]) The Jay report continues:

·  In December 2010 Ofsted published its Annual Assessment of Rotherham's Children's Services. The report acknowledged the work that had been done to bring about the improvements which had been required by previous inspections.[21]

·  In January 2011 the Department for Education removed Rotherham's children's services from Government intervention.[22]

·  In November 2011 Ofsted's Annual Children's Services Assessment took place. The Council was commended for having invited a peer challenge team to review its safeguarding services.[23]

·  In August 2012 Ofsted rated Rotherham's child protection services as 'adequate' commending 'significant improvements'.[24]

9. Subsequently, Ofsted supplied us with a table summarising the overall grades of its inspections from 2006.[25]
Inspection type[26] Date of inspection Report publication Overall grade Inspectorates involved
SIF 16 Sep 14 19 Nov 14 Inadequate Ofsted
CPI 02 Jul 12 10 Aug 12 Adequate Ofsted
CRA 10 May 11 09 Jun 11 Not graded, but included areas for development Ofsted
SLAC (Safe-guarding) 19 Jul 10 27 Aug 10 Adequate Ofsted


SLAC (LAC) 19 Jul 10 27 Aug 10 Adequate Ofsted


CRA 04 Aug 09 04 Sep 09 Not graded, but included areas for priority action  
JAR 200610 Oct 06 Grades were given for:

Local services overall

·  The five ECM outcomes

·  service management

·  capacity to improve

Council services

·  capacity to improve

·  children's services

·  education services

·  social care services for children

Health services for children.


All judgments were good

·  Adult Learning Inspectorate

·  Audit Commission


·  Healthcare Commission

·  HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate

·  HM Inspectorate of Constabulary

·  HM Inspectorate of Court Administration

·  HM Inspectorate of Prisons

·  HM Inspectorate of Probation

·  Ofsted

Table 1

10. On the face of it the Ofsted reports show an underperforming authority with intermittent improvement. The actuality, however, was that at least 1,400 children were being systematically sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. As Miriam Rosen, from Ofsted, told us: "the main problem was that at the time we did not have sufficient understanding about the scale, scope and nature of child sexual exploitation".[27] But the nature and scale of the exploitation at Rotherham was known by the victims and their families and within the Council.

a)  Risky Business, a youth project, had noted problems since the late 1990s: it would refer to children's social care any young person who gave rise to serious concerns and might require statutory intervention, it was part of the Council's Youth Services and one of its main functions was the provision of training to voluntary and statutory agencies working in the field, to magistrates, the Police, schools and foster carers.[28] In her report Louise Casey described its approach in reaching out to victims and in collecting evidence about perpetrators as "ground breaking" and pointed out that it "constantly and relentlessly shared what [it] knew [and] produced maps which showed the places child sexual exploitation was happening, wrote reports on the victims involved, and drew on national evidence to draw attention to what was happening in Rotherham [and it] met with social workers and police to pass on relevant information about individual cases".[29]

b)  There were seminars for elected members and senior officers held in 2004-05 which presented the abuse in the most explicit terms and after these events, Professor Jay said, "nobody could say 'we didn't know'".[30]

Why did Ofsted not detect and expose Rotherham's failure to address child sexual exploitation?

11. We asked why Ofsted had failed to notice the seriousness of the problem of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. We identified several reasons.

12. First, Debbie Jones, currently in post in Ofsted, said that "we inspect according to what are the published frameworks of the time".[31] Ofsted had designed its frameworks[32] and they "examined processes [...] systems [and] strategies".[33] This approach had inherent weaknesses as Professor Jay told us that Rotherham

    had no shortage of policies, procedures or plans. There were mountains of them, but the weakness was that nobody checked whether they were being implemented, or indeed whether they were any good.[34]

13. The first weakness in Ofsted's approach was that it relied on the appearance of, and paperwork describing, Rotherham's systems rather than the actuality. It did not effectively check the policies with practical examples that could demonstrate evidence that the policies were working.

14. Debbie Jones accepted that Ofsted did not "spot the scale" of child sexual exploitation.[35] She also explained that "in the [...] frameworks there was probably an over-reliance on [...] focus groups, where you would meet with a group of professionals who were used to talking to inspectors and were trained in talking to inspectors"[36] and that they were "not necessarily reaching those parts that needed to be reached".[37]

15. This approach had the effect of missing the "ground breaking" work carried out by Risky Business. As Louise Casey noted:

    the strengths of Risky Business were actually considered weaknesses within [Rotherham Council]. The contribution that the youth workers made was not properly appreciated or valued. They were not accorded the professional respect given to social workers.

    Too often, the information they gleaned was ignored and not acted upon. [...] Risky Business and those that established it, supported it and worked alongside it had, in the course of a decade, gone from a progressive and innovative project to one that was marginalised, reshaped and eventually closed down.[38]

It was "very clear" to the Casey Inspection team that here was a professional jealousy of youth services by social care. In addition, the Report found this "lack of understanding of child sexual exploitation in Children's Social Care meant they got the law wrong, and they got the practice wrong"[39] and that the

    issue of professional boundaries was reinforced by a lack of understanding-deliberate or otherwise-about the type of information gathered and held about the girls and the perpetrators. The information that Risky Business had was deemed 'not good enough' by both social care and the police. Information they passed on was often discredited.[40]

16. The second weakness in Ofsted's approach was that it relied on what the officers at Rotherham told it. These officers do not appear to have passed on the concerns Risky Business raised about child sexual exploitation and Ofsted does not appear to have probed beyond what it was told and it failed to penetrate the professional jealousy and incompetence that distorted the operation of Children's Social Care in Rotherham.

17. Debbie Jones stressed that the "frameworks that we had at the time were developed according to the policies and the issues that were of concern at the time [and] they did not focus on child sexual exploitation".[41] John Goldup, formerly a senior official at Ofsted, explained that before 2012 the focus had been on "child sexual abuse, which is primarily a thing that happens within children's homes"[42] and "the effectiveness [...] of local authorities' response to the abuse of children and neglect of children primarily within the home, which is [...] where the vast majority of child abuse takes place".[43] He added:

    We did not understand the scale and scope and prevalence of child sexual exploitation up until 2012 [...] I do not think we understood that it was something that almost certainly affects thousands of children all around the country, and it could be happening in any local authority [...] our understanding of child sexual exploitation up to 2012 was limited.[44]

    By the end of 2012, we were inspecting for child sexual exploitation in a very different way. We needed to improve; we needed to learn. We did not get it right at the time we inspected Rotherham.[45]

18. The third reason is that the 'frameworks' used by Ofsted in inspections from 2007 to 2012 relied on an approach narrowly focussed on structured processes that did not include enquiry for, or into, organised child sexual exploitation.

19. Michael Hart, also a former senior official at Ofsted, stressed that he had no responsibilities in respect of child sexual exploitation.[46] He told us:

    My title was Director, Children (not Director, Children's Services). This involved responsibility for the inspection of Early Years, CAFCASS, and a range of Social Care remits (children's homes, fostering services, adoption services, residential boarding schools etc). The inspection of local authorities' overall provision, including safeguarding, was the responsibility of another division of Ofsted, though of course the teams for these inspections included input from one of the Social Care inspectors employed in my division.[47]

When he gave evidence to us Mr Hart explained that he had responsibilities for inspecting the fostering service and the adoption service.[48]

20. Commenting on the 2007 reorganisation of inspection, when inspection of children's services came to Ofsted, Mr Hart said that it took

    [at least most of 2007 and 2008] for a change of culture and ethos, from what was [...] predominantly an education-focused inspectorate to one that took on a much wider brief. It took most of the time while I was there, in a sense, to settle the social care inspectors into this larger organisation, and, indeed, the other way round as well—for the education part to recognise what was joining them—and to look for the potential joint working across the two.[49]

    Education inspectors were mainly concerned initially on areas of achievement. They began to recognise that areas such as safeguarding were equally important. There was lots of training that went on to make sure that they also took responsibility for that within their inspection regimes. Similarly, the social care inspectors needed to understand the importance that education could play".[50]

21. We accept Mr Hart's description of his responsibilities and how Ofsted was operating from 2007. What it shows us is an organisation turned in on itself, while a major reorganisation bedded in, and an organisation operating in distinct silos. The result, it appears to us, was that evidence of child sexual exploitation in, say, an education service would have been neither detected nor passed to those inspecting social care.

22. Mr Hart's evidence leaves us with a picture of Ofsted as an organisation in 2007 and 2008, and probably later, that was culturally and operationally functioning in impenetrable silos. This regrettable situation is the fourth reason why the noticing or exposing of organised child sexual exploitation in Rotherham was hampered.

23. John Goldup told us that some of the inspections of Rotherham were short¯for example, a two-day unannounced inspection of contact referral and assessment arrangements in 2009.[51] We cannot see that such an inspection was going to uncover the nature or extent of child sexual exploitation.

24. The fifth reason why Ofsted failed to notice child sexual exploitation in Rotherham is that its inspections were too short and narrowly focused.

Changes from 2012

25. Changes gathered momentum in 2012. John Goldup explained that the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Runaway and Missing Children and Adults in June 2012,[52] the article in The Times by Andrew Norfolk in autumn 2012[53] and the report of the deputy children's commissioner in November 2012,[54] which estimated that 16,500 children were at risk of child sexual exploitation, "fundamentally transformed our understanding of the scope and the extent and the prevalence of child sexual exploitation".[55]

26. Debbie Jones explained that the framework was altered in 2012 with "increased focus on the journey of the child" and that as well as data Ofsted looked at

    soft intelligence and hard intelligence; we will, most importantly, look at front-line practice; we will track a significant number of cases; we will sample cases; and, in areas where we know that there are particular issues around child sexual exploitation, they will get more of a forensic look.[56]

Ms Jones told us that "only under our current framework with the focus that it has got, are we likely to identify the scale and the extent," but she added a caveat that she could not give "any guarantees".[57]

27. Ms Jones also explained that the changes went beyond alterations to the framework:

    Now Ofsted works within a regional structure I, as regional director in London, have access not just to the information from social care, but I hear what happens in schools. That is really important, because some of the very good work that we saw was happening in the schools space, in the work that is being done to prevent and to raise awareness.[58]

She added that inspectors "will speak directly to those on the front line, as well as to the young people, parents and foster carers"[59] and "we talk extensively to children".[60]

28. The Local Government Association (LGA) told us that it had reservations about these revised arrangements:

    The new Ofsted regime, which has been presented as an improved framework and much more likely to pick up signs of child sexual exploitation, largely ignored the role of elected members in challenging [within] the system and in community leadership. Councillors represent their communities and reflect different perspectives, making important contributions to the work of the Council.[61]

29. The recent changes which Ofsted has made to the inspection regime appear to be an improvement, though the Local Government Association has voiced concern that the role of councillors in challenging within the system has been ignored. We recognise Ofsted's assurance, albeit with a caveat, that the new arrangements, which are both broader and deeper than those before 2012, should not let child sexual exploitation such as that in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxfordshire and other places slip by undetected. We have, however, a lingering concern that Ofsted is still a reactive organisation that will only detect known problems, and that it will not be the body that identifies the next, as yet undetected, class of serious failure.

The interpretation of Ofsted's assessments

30. In the period we examined down to 2013, Ofsted judged local authorities using the terms 'outstanding', 'good', 'adequate' or 'inadequate'.[62] The term 'adequate' has caused confusion. John Goldup made the point to us that: "Ofsted did not say at any point that Rotherham was serving its children well".[63] After the improvement notice had been served in 2009, Ofsted inspected Rotherham in 2010 and Mr Goldup said "that sufficient improvement had been made to re-grade the authority as 'adequate', although significant weaknesses remained".[64] This meant that the "weaknesses were not sufficiently serious to keep the authority in intervention", though he stressed that he was not involved "in any way, shape or form" in the decision by the Department for Education to take Rotherham out of intervention in 2011.[65] Miriam Rosen took a broader perspective and was "very sorry that some of [Ofsted's] reports perhaps gave a false reassurance".[66]

31. While concluding that all inspections, including Ofsted's, had "essentially failed the children of Rotherham in relation to child sexual exploitation", Louise Casey made the point to us that Ofsted "had repeatedly told [Rotherham] about weaknesses and failings that they did not listen to".[67] She drew attention to a chart in her report that listed concerns that she found in her inspection and also showed when and how frequently they had appeared in the past. We reproduce the table[68] below.
Area of criticism Date(s) of inspection report
Lack of vision, leadership and effective management 2000, 2002, 2009, 2013, 2014
Personal development reviews and supervision 2002, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
Core assessments for children, procedures and timeliness 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
Concerns re teenage pregnancies 2006, 2008, 2014
Weaknesses in social care management/safeguarding 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014
Plans, pace, not embedded 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Confused governance, too many groups, confusion and increased risk 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014
Access Team 2009 (x2), 2011, 2012, 2014
Social care capacity/resources/prioritisation 2009 (x2), 2012, 2014
Information/data/analysis 2009 (x2), 2011, 2014
Domestic violence 2011, 2012, 2014

Table 2

32. Notwithstanding this catalogue of concerns, Ofsted, as we have noted, rated Rotherham's child protection services in August 2012 as 'adequate' and commended it on 'significant improvements'. We consider it significant that, when Martin Kimber, then Chief Executive of Rotherham Council, gave evidence to us in September 2014, he described the 2012 assessment in the following terms:

    In August of 2012, there was an Ofsted inspection of our services that indicated to me, amongst a whole range of things about our safeguarding activity, that our [child sexual exploitation] services in particular were regarded as being strong and appropriate for looking after children. In the context of the information available to me, I believe that I took the most relevant and appropriate steps.[69]

33. Debbie Jones told us that "we have raised the bar and the 'adequate' grade would [now] read 'requires improvement'".[70]

34. We conclude that Ofsted's rating of 'adequate' was ambiguous and open to misinterpretation. To Ofsted, it meant that improvement was required and we welcome Ofsted's redefinition and clarification of the meaning of an authority assessed as falling into this category. To a person unfamiliar with Ofsted's methods of operations—and this could include councillors carrying out the vital work of scrutinising their officers and services—the term could be represented or interpreted as meaning satisfactory. Rotherham appears to have gone a step further and interpreted it as indicating a 'strong' performance.

35. The disparity between Rotherham's interpretation of Ofsted's reports and what Ofsted thought it was reporting was brought into even sharper relief by Debbie Jones's expectation of what should happen after an inspection:

    I [...] know from my own personal experience the level of challenge and scrutiny that leaders and lead members give their senior officers. Certainly that is what I experienced in the authorities that I worked in, and I did not just work in 'good' authorities.[71]

    I think it is important [...] that councillors and senior officers also have their own [follow-up] mechanisms in place.[72]

36. In our view Debbie Jones's statement is entirely reasonable and a classic statement of the position of the inspector/auditor and the inspected/audited. The problem in Rotherham was that it was dysfunctional in respect of child sexual exploitation and in denial about its shortcomings. Louise Casey found there was a "culture of clinging onto anything positive within [Rotherham Council] and not facing up to the truth of the situation,"[73] and on inspections:

    The Council does not use inspection to learn and improve. Members are overly reliant on officers and do not challenge tenaciously enough to ensure improvements. Meeting and action plans are numerous but unproductive, with a tendency towards inertia.[74]

37. Nor was there any external pressure on Rotherham to tackle the deficiencies identified in inspection reports (as summarised at Table 2). Professor Jay pointed out to us that Ofsted's reports

    continued again and again to refer to the same issues coming up: lack of monitoring; inadequate supervision; the absence of sound information systems, etc., but they did not seem to demand any direct and sustained improvement take place. They simply reported and then it went onto the next and the next, so there was no clear message that 'We are not going to tolerate that this has not improved'. I thought that was a weakness in their approach.[75]

And as Louise Casey commented: "We have this culture now [...] that you are as good as the last inspection. If that is the culture, you are not going to look back."[76]

38. The Casey report provides an incisive summary of the result of Rotherham's failure to build on the lessons from past inspections:

    Rotherham Council [...] failed to achieve and maintain an acceptable standard of performance over the past 14 years. Corporate governance, leadership and management have been mixed, improving at times but unable to sustain momentum. Social services' performance has declined from a high point in 2001 when it was among the top ten performers in the country. Children's Social Care maintained a good but declining performance to 2007 when it experienced a significant decline from which it never recovered.[77]

39. In our view Ofsted's inspections of Rotherham were too episodic and disconnected to produce a clear picture of steady decline in Children's Social Care that would be noticed let alone acted upon by the Council. Nor did they link to the internal processes of scrutiny which, we consider, need to be strengthened.

40. Miriam Rosen said that Ofsted's 2006 report had "[discovered] that there was child sexual exploitation going on".[78] We asked Ofsted whether the inspectors who carried out the 2009 inspection would have reviewed the 2006 report. Ofsted told us that: "As in Ofsted's current inspection practice, inspectors in 2009 would have been expected to review previous inspection reports as part of their pre-inspection preparations".[79] If this was the case then Ofsted should have been able to discern the long-term trend and the failure to improve children's services in Rotherham.

41. We detected some recent shift in Ofsted's approach. Debbie Jones made it clear that Ofsted believed "in improvement through inspection" and that more follow-up on findings could become more of "Ofsted's job".[80] They were piloting improvement work in a small number of failing authorities. Ofsted were keen to be part of the solution to improving performance through the use of their skill set in inspecting. This work focused on helping identify what needed improving and then helping measure, outside of the inspection tests, how it had improved.[81] In a subsequent memorandum Ofsted said that "early signs from those authorities that have been involved in the pilot exercise are that this work has been successful in supporting their improvement programmes" and it gave details of the support that it provided.[82]

42. The LGA, however, held the view that the current inspection regime for the protection and care of children and young people was "flawed and is stifling improvement", and it was looking for "a better way of holding agencies to account and driving improvement that takes account of the views of children and young people and draws on the very best expertise we have available to us". The LGA working with Solace and the Association of Directors of Children's Services have agreed to "collaborate on a radical new approach to be published this month".[83]

43. We accept that it is neither Ofsted's job to run local authorities' children's services nor a good use of tight resources for it to follow up in detail what each authority has done to address every finding in an inspection. Rotherham shows, however, that it cannot stand back when the welfare and safety of children are at risk. In our view Ofsted needs to assess an authority's ability to operate the inspection process as it should function: that is to test the findings and see through improvements. A pattern of systemic failure and deterioration in children's services started to emerge in Rotherham from 2000 and it carried on. Where an authority is incapable of making improvements, Ofsted needs to take measures to assist it and, if necessary, ensure the improvements are systematically and comprehensively carried out. If this is not happening, then there needs to be a clear escalation policy. It cannot be left to chance.

44. Finally, in her evidence Louise Casey made the point that "inspection needs to be kept separate from improvement" and she explained that "if the same group of people that are responsible for inspecting are also then tied in with improvement, then it does not feel to the public, and certainly to me, that that is a clean enough scenario".[84] We agree.

45. While we encourage Ofsted to assist those local authorities where serious deficiencies have occurred to improve. Ofsted has within its organisational structure and arrangements to keep the process of improvement separate from that of inspection, to ensure public confidence in the independence and integrity of the inspection process.

Linking with other inspectorates

46. Linking between inspectorates should be of some assistance in establishing whether an authority is capable of reviewing and implementing findings. In addition, organised child sexual exploitation by its nature will draw in other services such as the police and the health services. John Goldup told us that when he was at Ofsted the work he "did on multi-agency inspection had a very strong focus on child sexual exploitation" and he strongly believed that was "the only way you can effectively inspect for the effectiveness of the response to an issue like that". [85] But in his time at Ofsted "we did not work sufficiently [...] closely enough" with other inspection regimes.[86] He added that in terms of sharing information and "working together on the ground, there was very limited joint working between the inspectorates".[87] He explained that:

    The reason the 2012 framework was an interim framework was because by that time I had secured agreement with the other inspectorates to undertake a single multi-agency inspection of child protection. We were piloting that framework at the end of 2012, and that framework had a very strong focus on child sexual exploitation.[88]

Mr Goldup understood that after he left Ofsted decided not to pursue the new framework following the pilots and that:

    Ofsted has continued to inspect local authorities on a single-agency basis. They have consulted on proposals to introduce a different form of multi-agency inspection from next year, which [...] is not the proposal that I was taking forward, which was a single inspection bringing the inspectorates together in a single team, but is a proposal for the different inspectorates to be on site at the same time, each doing their own inspection of their own agency, and then bringing the results together.[89]

47. Miriam Rosen explained that multi-inspectorate reviews had a longer history. Joint area review inspections had been developed over a two-year period from 2003 to 2005 and under these 10 inspectorates and commissions had worked together. The project had been led by Ofsted but with the expertise on social care provided by the Commission for Social Care Inspection. She considered, however, that "things [...] were not ideal" and that it was "a very broad framework".[90] The joint area review programme did not highlight the area of child sexual exploitation.[91] Although no longer in Ofsted, she understood that the new inspection system "is taking a much deeper, more investigative approach to child sexual exploitation".[92] We also asked Louise Casey about joined-up inspections. She had reservations:

    what it means is that you just have a collection of people with their own structures that they want to look at, in their own timeframes, in their own language. [...] The person on the receiving end is now not just managing an Ofsted inspection every so often [...] but is on the receiving end of multiple different inspections, all of whom are looking at their own structures and their own systems.

    One of the interesting learnings out of this is that if you want to get under the skin of something and you want to look at an issue in an area then sometimes what it might be useful to do is send in a group of people that are not straight-jacketed by their systems [...] and stand back and use the inspection powers to investigate and try to get under the skin of something [...] If that is what a multiple inspection turns into, that is fine, but I do worry that all you do is have five different bureaucracies looking at something bureaucratically.[93]

48. We raised this matter with Debbie Jones, currently in post at Ofsted, who told us that Ofsted was "currently concluding a pilot of [its] integrated inspection model" and that it had "looked at two authorities and we will be reporting on that in February".[94] She would not be drawn on the outcome but her view was that "we will need [...] to ensure that we do look at issues like child sexual exploitation in a joined-up way".[95]

49. Debbie Jones and John Goldup are clearly right that it is necessary to look at issues such as child sexual exploitation in a 'joined-up way' across inspection regimes, and to be effective the process needs to be able to dig deep into an authority. What concerns us is the length of time taken to achieve the join and the need to ensure that the process that emerges can focus on an issue and examine it in depth. Work started in 2012 but a pilot looking at two authorities was only due to report in February 2015. We must put on record our concern at the slow progress.

Other local authorities

50. We are concerned that organised child sexual exploitation may have been missed in local authorities other than Rotherham. Debbie Jones told us that what we needed to examine was what Ofsted looked at now.[96] She said that "only 'good' is good enough for our children and young people" and [...] something like 75% of local authorities at [...] present [...] do not hit that bar".[97] She explained that under the current framework Ofsted had inspected 44 local authorities and it had not been necessary to take matters up with the Secretary of State¯as had happened in the inspection in Rotherham in September 2014¯but she assured us that "if we went in to an authority and found what we found in Rotherham, we would have absolutely no compunction about expressing our concerns, as we did, to the Secretary of State".[98]

51. On the day that we considered our report, Ofsted published its annual social care report 2013-14.[99] The report found that of 43 inspections, seven authorities were found to be inadequate, with a further 26 requiring improvement. Ten areas were judged to provide a good standard of care and protection for children and young people. The report said:

    The importance of effective oversight of local authorities has been demonstrated very clearly in the last 12 months in a number of investigations into the terrible abuse of children in Rotherham.

    The first of these, Professor Alexis Jay's independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation, published in August 2014, was deeply shocking. It is clear that Ofsted's previous inspection arrangements did not look at this issue in sufficient depth. [...]

    Inspectors reported that the strong leadership required in this crucial area of child protection work was frequently lacking. As Professor Jay made clear, faced with such shocking crimes, senior leaders must show political and moral courage. They must never allow misguided beliefs about the impact for certain ethnic and cultural groups to get in the way of confronting this horrific abuse wherever it occurs.[100]

52. On Ofsted's own approach, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said that:

    Ofsted currently inspects local authorities every three to four years and, given the length of time between inspections, it would be wrong to rely on inspection alone to uncover significant failings. Of course, we will inspect sooner where local authorities are judged inadequate, or where serious concerns are raised and we are commissioned to inspect by the relevant government department. But that will not always happen where there is what Louise Casey in her report on Rotherham council called 'a culture of covering up uncomfortable truths, silencing whistle-blowers and paying off staff rather than dealing with difficult issues.'

    That said, I want to ensure that Ofsted does all in its power to help uncover such practice. Following the thematic inspection of child sexual exploitation, we have:

    —further strengthened our focus on child sexual exploitation and children who go missing in all single inspections

    —made it clear to inspectors that local authorities should be found inadequate if they are not doing all they can to identify and tackle these issues

    —created a specialist team of Her Majesty's Inspectors with expertise in child sexual exploitation to support inspections where it appears that the local authority is not effectively addressing the risk of child sexual exploitation

    —worked with other inspectorates, including those of the police and health services, to develop a new coordinated inspection approach where concerns are identified.

    —moved the delivery of the single inspection framework programme into our now well established regional structure to make the most of our local intelligence (from April 2015).

Ofsted hoped that these changes would help ensure that local leaders and frontline practitioners focus on these issues and that, as a result, children at risk of being sexually exploited receive the support and protection they deserve.[101]

53. We note that Ofsted's annual report on social care 2013-14 acknowledged that changes were needed in the way it carried out its responsibilities in respect of child sexual exploitation and that changes are underway, including the creation of a specialist team with expertise in child sexual exploitation and coordination with other inspectorates. We hope these changes will result in substantial improvements in Ofsted's inspections of children's services. We have serious concerns that the shortcomings in Ofsted's inspection arrangements until 2013 may mean that organised child sexual exploitation in other local authorities in England was missed. We are clear that Ofsted missed child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and on the basis of the way it was operating from 2007 to 2012 we are also clear that it will have missed child sexual exploitation in many other local authorities. It should therefore inspect all local authorities in England.

2014 Inspection of Rotherham

54. We had questions about Ofsted's inspection of Rotherham in September 2014. These fit a broader concern raised by the LGA that: "councils have voiced growing concern over Ofsted's ability to undertake robust, transparent and credible inspections of local authority children's services and schools, in the light of high profile cases such as Rotherham and Birmingham". The LGA took the view that Ofsted's re-inspection and downgrading of some schools from 'outstanding' or 'good' to 'inadequate' "following media coverage has reduced the confidence of councils and the public in the inspectorate" and it pointed out that five of the schools involved in the Trojan Horse incident in Birmingham were among a number which had been downgraded to 'inadequate', in some cases less than a year after they were judged to be 'outstanding'.[102]

55. As we have noted, in the case of Rotherham, Ofsted's 2012 inspection had resulted in an 'adequate' assessment. Professor Jay produced her highly critical report in August 2014. Ofsted inspected Rotherham in September, and on 30 September 2014 Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, wrote to Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education, to alert her to his "deep concerns about serious weaknesses" which included "the Council's ability to help and protect children and young people".[103] On 10 October the Secretary of State wrote to Rotherham Council citing the advice note from Ofsted and indicating that she was minded to appoint a Commissioner "to urgently investigate and address the failings identified by [Ofsted] and recommend immediate next steps".[104]

56. We put our concerns to Debbie Jones, who denied that Ofsted was trying to save face: "When Ofsted went in to Rotherham, Rotherham was due its inspection anyway. It had already been programmed in. It was brought forward at the request of the Secretary of State. When we went in we inspected according to our current framework".[105]

57. We accept that Ofsted's 2014 inspection of Rotherham was necessary and prudent in the light of the findings in the Jay Report. However, Professor Jay had done the job for Ofsted. It was as if having been told the answer to the question Ofsted was bound to come up with the correct answer when it took the examination. Eventually coming up with the correct answer does not wipe out Ofsted's past record.


58. Ofsted is a non-ministerial department. There are good reasons for such an arrangement: Ofsted needs to have organisational arrangements to allow it to operate independently and as Debbie Jones told us: "We value our independence [...] very robustly".[106] Its status cannot, however, become a device to cloak failures. It is accountable to parliament.[107] When we asked Ms Jones who would assess Ofsted's performance and challenge it when it failed, she replied

    If we fail, if we do not perform as robustly as we should do, we are an organisation that has no problem with looking to ourselves and identifying when things go wrong. Indeed, when things go wrong I hope that our systems are robust enough and our quality assurance systems are transparent enough to say, when we get it wrong, we get it wrong.[108]

59. We accept what Ms Jones says but this defence could be run by any responsible organisation in the public or private sector. We therefore pressed the matter by asking whether it sacked people when things went wrong. Ms Jones answered: "Ofsted has sacked people where it has been proven that inspectors have got it wrong and due process has been followed".[109] We asked Michael Hart and John Goldup whether they had ever sacked any inspectors. They said they had not.[110] Ms Rosen did not remember anyone being sacked.[111] We wrote to Ofsted to ask how many inspectors had been removed from their posts because of failure to carry out adequate inspections. In reply Ofsted supplied the table below which gave the "Social Care Inspectors who have either left due to dismissal or have taken voluntary exits (VE) as a result of organisational change including changes to the role". The figures cover the period 1 January 2007 to 31 January 2015; the VE scheme was in place 2012-2015.[112]
Grade Number dismissed Number of Voluntary Exits
B1 (SCRI) [Senior Inspector] 4 33
HMI [Inspector] 1 1
Managing Inspector (grade no longer exits) 0 2
Total 5 36

Table 3

60. This is not the report in which to make recommendations about the accountability of Ofsted. That would require a much bigger inquiry. But as a committee new to scrutinising non-ministerial departments we make two points. First, without calling former officials it would have been difficult getting as far as we did in this inquiry. Second, we must put on record a concern that the balance between independence and accountability in the face of the failure to detect organised child sexual exploitation at Rotherham and dysfunction of the local authority may need adjustment. The past officers were more open and prepared to admit past mistakes than the officer currently in post. On the basis of the evidence we took concerning Rotherham we are uneasy that Ofsted should be left to mark its own examinations and decide internally what lessons to draw and changes to make.

15   Q200 Back

16   Jay Report, p11, paras 3.14-3.16 Back

17   Q376 [John Goldup] Back

18   Q306 [Debbie Jones] Back

19   Jay Report, paras 3.17-3.19 Back

20   Q311 [Debbie Jones] Back

21   Jay Report, paras 3.20-3.21 Back

22   Jay Report, paras 3.20-3.21 Back

23   Jay Report, para 3.23 Back

24   Jay Report, p 13; see also Casey Report, chapter 2 and p 69 Back

25   Ofsted (JRR 003) Back

26   Key:

CPI Child Protection Inspection

CRA Contact, Referral And Assessment

JAR Joint Area Review

SIF Single Inspection Framework

SLAC Safeguarding Looked After Children Back

27   Q495 Back

28   Jay Report, paras 1.5-1.6; see also para 5.20 and chapter 6 Back

29   Casey Report, pp 37-38 Back

30   Jay Report, p 2; see also Casey Report, p 38 Back

31   Q275 Back

32   Q289 Back

33   Q290 Back

34   Q197 Back

35   Q291 Back

36   Q317 Back

37   Q303 Back

38   Casey Report, p 40 Back

39   Casey Report, p 43; see also Q457. Back

40   Casey Report, p 44 Back

41   Q288 Back

42   Q370 Back

43   Q373 Back

44   Qq373-74 Back

45   Q374 Back

46   Qq352-53, 362-63 Back

47   Email sent on 3 February 2015 from Michael Hart to the Clerk of the Committee, not printed. Back

48   Q363 Back

49   Q401 Back

50   Q426 Back

51   Q376 Back

52   The APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults and the APPG for Looked After Children and Care Leavers, Report from the joint inquiry into children who go missing from care, June 2012 Back

53   Such as "Police files reveal child protection scandal", The Times, 24 September 2012, "Revelation of child-sex scandal prompts calls for public enquiry", The Times, 25 September 2012 Back

54   Office of the Children's Commissioner, "I thought I was the only one. The only one in the world" The Office of the Children's Commissioner's Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation In Gangs and Groups Interim report, November 2012 Back

55   Q389 Back

56   Q277 Back

57   Qq310-11; see also Q315. Back

58   Q315 Back

59   Q317 Back

60   Q316 Back

61   Local Government Association (JRR 002) para 8 Back

62   Q355 [John Goldup]; In more detail they meant:
Outstanding: a service of exceptional quality that significantly exceeds minimum requirements
Good: a service of high quality that exceeds minimum requirements
Adequate: a service that only meets minimum requirements
Inadequate: a service that does not meet minimum requirements. 

63   Q355 Back

64   Q382 Back

65   Q383 Back

66   Q493 Back

67   Q474 Back

68   Casey Report, p 69 Back

69   Q7 Back

70   Q309 Back

71   Qq312, 314 Back

72   Q314 Back

73   Casey Report, p 24 Back

74   Casey Report, p 11 Back

75   Q200 Back

76   Q477 Back

77   Casey Report, p 68 Back

78   Q499 Back

79   Ofsted (JRR 004)  Back

80   Qq344-45 Back

81   Q345; see also Ofsted (JRR 001) Back

82   Ofsted (JRR 001) Back

83   Local Government Association (JRR 002) para 4 Back

84   Q477 Back

85   Q373 Back

86   Q418 Back

87   Q419 Back

88   Q418 Back

89   Q422 Back

90   Q491; see also Ofsted (JRR 003) para 1 Back

91   Q491 [Miriam Rosen] Back

92   Q491; see also Ofsted (JRR 003) para 1 Back

93   Q475 Back

94   Q334 Back

95   Qq334, 336 Back

96   Q304 Back

97   Q309 [Debbie Jones] Back

98   Qq329-31 Back

99   Ofsted, The report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2013-14 Social care, March 2015 Back

100   Ofsted, The report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2013-14 Social care, March 2015, p 6 Back

101   Ofsted, The report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2013-14 Social care, March 2015, p 8 Back

102   Local Government Association (JRR 002) para 4 Back

103   Advice note from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw to Nicky Morgan, 30 September 2014 Back

104   Letter from the Secretary of State for Education to Rotherham Council, 7 October 2014 Back

105   Q329 Back

106   Q328 and see also Q356 [John Goldup] Back

107   Q328 [Debbie Jones] Back

108   Q324 Back

109   Q327 Back

110   Qq405-06 Back

111   Q510; see also Qq508-09 Back

112   Ofsted (JRR 003) para 4; Key:
B1 Regulatory inspectors
B2 Childcare inspectors.
MI Managing Inspector
HMI Her Majesty's Inspector
SCRI Social Care Regulatory inspector
SHMI Senior Her Majesty's Inspector (replaced MI) 

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Prepared 17 March 2015