I read front page in the Guardian yesterday that Christine Gilbert, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, has come out publicly to say that Ofsted were lied to by officers in Haringey in terms of the information they provided when they inspected Haringey. Result – Ofsted gave Haringey three stars just weeks after Baby P’s death.
Well – I’m glad she said it. I’ve no doubt Haringey did present inaccurate information and was trying to pull the wool over Ofsted’s eyes – given they wanted three stars because the government hoops they have to jump through mean resources, money and political advantage all come from three stars.
However, as neatly as Ofsted wishes to put all the blame on Haringey, I would just like to point out the feebleness of that as an excuse for an inspection regime. Ed Balls has now moved to say basically these interim inspections are useless and Ofsted must do face-to-face inspections annually. But what on earth confidence can we have in any inspection regime given this failure? Surely the questions and examinations have to go deeper.
And last but not least in this dishonourable performance management system is the Government itself who set it up. Ed Balls is only too willing to look at the narrow focus of the social work and systems end – but not really so far said anything about the Government’s part in this devastating failure. It is the Labour Government who set up a performance management system with targets, tick boxes and gold stars on inspection. What bigger perverse incentive can you have in a rotten borough then to be allowed to present false information to achieve a false status? Come on Ed – look at your own part in all of this.
And today, news has broken that Ed Balls and Alan Johnson are launching a task force to change the practice, spread best practise and look at training of social workers. Yes – some of things are suggested may well be good so no problem with that or the task force – but the focus is still narrow. We need a proper public inquiry to look at all the issues that are much wider than just what happens in the departments themselves. As before – even the Government system of performance management is called into question.