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Ofsted: Changing ‘adequate’ councils to ‘requires improvement’ won’t help staff morale or public perception

As Ofsted publishes a new single inspection framework, BASW has raised questions about the potential negative impact changing the terminology used to describe current council ratings could have on staff morale and public perception of social workers.

From November, the new framework will assess services for looked-after children and child protection at the same time. The ‘Good’ rating becomes the new benchmark and councils previously rated ‘adequate’ now change to ‘requiring improvement’.

Commenting on the change, BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri said: “We are really pleased to see the inclusion of the experience and progress of care leavers in the new inspection framework; this is to be warmly welcomed. 

“However, while we should be ambitious in raising the standards and quality of local authority children’s services in England, we also need to ask if raising the bar to this level will simply set more local authorities up for failure, given that one in four are not even attaining an adequate grading. 

“We need to consider the likely impact changing the status of councils who move from ‘adequate’ to ‘requires improvement’ will have on public perception of that service and on staff morale.  Our concern is that it will be a negative one.

“Since the previous inspection framework of children’s services was only introduced just over a year ago in May 2012, it does feel as if the rate and pace of change is unrelenting.

“Local authorities will have seen what has happened to Doncaster and so this new framework inevitably places them under even greater pressure to literally make the grade or await their fate.  It leaves us questioning whether it is a case of too much, too soon, particularly in a climate of austerity where increasingly more is expected from less. “