Agenda item


Paper by the Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive).



Members considered a report from the Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive) which provided an outline of the existing regulatory regimes that related to children’s services and highlighted where there had been impact on these regimes during the current COVID-19 pandemic.


The Senior Manager - Partnerships and People Improvement began by discussing Children’s social care which was subject to the Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) framework. The last full inspection under the previous Single Inspection Framework (SIF) in November 2017 returned a ‘Requires Improvement’ judgement.


Under the ILACS framework local authorities receive a full inspection approximately every three years with a minimum of two short focused visits (usually thematic) undertaken between inspections, one of which could be a Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) which is a thematic multi-agency inspection which Ofsted and other regulators undertaken with a small number of authorities each year against a selected topic, such as child exploitation, or mental health.


Our first short focused visit under the ILACS framework took place in August 2019. There were no priority areas for improvement resulting from the visit and many areas of positive practice highlighted. Our second short focused visit was scheduled for March 2020 and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


During COVID-19, the formal inspection schedule had been postponed, however Ofsted recently initiated support/assurance visits to local authorities but had since paused ILACS support/assurance visits during the national lockdown effective from 5 November. Ofsted have since stated that due to the 10 day notice period it is likely to mean there would be no further focused visits until the New Year.


The Senior Manager - Partnerships and People Improvement then moved on to discuss the regulatory regime regarding SEND. The Council received the first SEND inspection in 2019.  The inspection identified 9 areas for priority action which formed the basis of a Written Statement of Action which was the joint responsibility of the local authority and the two Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in Cumbria.


The improvement activity had been led by the SEND Improvement Board, with an independent chair and strong partnership representation including parents/carers and elected members. The monitoring/progress evaluation visits took place quarterly led by the Department of Education (DfE) and NHS England.  The last such visit took place on 16 November 2020. The timeframe for our re-inspection is unknown and is likely to have been impacted by the pause in inspections during Covid.


School inspections are carried out under the Education Inspection Framework which covers Ofsted inspections of maintained schools, academies, non-association independent schools, further education and skills provision and registered early years settings in England. The frequency of inspection will depend on the most recent judgement afforded to a setting.


The COVID pandemic resulted in a pause of Ofsted inspections on 17 March 2020.         Ofsted commenced an interim visit programme on 28 September 2020. These interim visits were introduced to reassure and inform parents, government and the public about how schools are managing the return to full education for all pupils. The lead Her Majesty’s Inspector (HMI) writes a short letter after each interim visit. This is to provide parents with information about what leaders are doing to help pupils back into full-time education. Letters do not provide any evaluation or graded judgement. There have been 15 of these section 8 visits to Cumbrian schools as at 19 November 2020. Ofsted have stated that they plan to restart inspection from Spring term 2021.


Ofsted have recently released their plans to re-introduce inspections from January 2021 but these are under constant review. When full routine early years inspections resume under the Education Inspection Framework (EIF), Ofsted will schedule these based on risk assessment and inspection grades, prioritizing nurseries, pre-schools and childminders that are not yet good and those there are significant concerns about. Under the new arrangements, all early years providers would be inspected in a six-year window from the date of their last inspection, rather than the current four-year cycle.


Members were reminded that Ofsted inspect residential homes once per year, known as a ‘key inspection’ over two days, whereby a judgement of, outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate will be made.


Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic Ofsted had changed the way they are carrying out inspections and were undertaking ‘assurance visits’ over two days, the first day by telephone and the second day in person at the home. It was confirmed that these assurance visits would not be graded. County residential provision was currently rated good or outstanding, except the new provision in Kendal which was still awaiting interim inspection and currently had no grading.


The Senior Manager - Partnerships and People Improvement then discussed Youth Offending Services who were usually selected for inspection on a risk basis. However, most Youth Offending Services would be subject to a core inspection with a small number selected for a joint agency Inspection. In addition to these core inspections, HMIP would carry out a number of thematic reviews, focusing on a specific area.


Cumbria YOS was subject to a full inspection in 2009 and subject to a Short Quality Screening Inspection in 2016. In July 2020 Cumbria YOS were one of 7 services selected to be part of the HMIP thematic review in to how Youth Offending Services have operated during Covid-19.


Members sought clarification on the differences between a DfE inspection and an ILACS inspection and the criteria that each looks for. It was confirmed that they were very much interlinked, the ILACS framework was set by the DfE and then Ofsted were the body charged with carrying out the inspection using the ILACS framework.


Members shared concerns regarding the pressure on schools caused by the pandemic and sought assurances that the Council was aware that further inspections would add to this pressure. The Assistant Director – Education and Skills confirmed that what was needed was a balanced approach and highlighted that at this stage school visits needed to play a supportive role.


A discussion took place regarding the support in place for school staff and head teachers in which it was confirmed by the Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive) that Ofsted had been actively seeking feedback and had explained the circumstances in which deferred inspections could be negotiated. 


The Vice-Chair asked whether any results had been received from the SEND monitoring evaluation visit and whether they could be shared. It was AGREED that feedback received would be shared alongside an overall update on SEND Improvement.


The Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive) stated that though the Council had improved in all areas of Children’s Social Care officers were determined to keep improving and to return a positive Ofsted result at the next inspection.


RESOLVED that,     members note the report.













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