Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Children audit Ofsted's inspection of social care

Children living in children’s homes, residential special schools and boarding schools have given their views about Ofsted’s social care inspection in the report Social care inspection: the children’s audit, published today.

The report by Dr Roger Morgan, the Children’s Rights Director, gathered 224 responses from children living in these settings, of which 149 children had direct experience of Ofsted’s social care inspections. Of those 149 children, 78% had been made aware that their service was going to be inspected, and 22% had not been told until the inspectors arrived.

When children were informed that inspection was going to take place, 26% of them were asked to prepare for inspectors. Preparation included tidying up before inspectors came, being told to behave themselves well while inspectors were around, and four children said that they were told they had to tell the inspectors good things about the place they were living in.

Children’s Rights Director, Dr Roger Morgan said:

'This report is the first of a series gathering the views of children living away from home about their experience of social care inspections. Though the survey was carried out before recent changes were made to Ofsted’s inspection in these areas, it has raised particular issues about the time inspectors spend talking and listening to children. I will be conducting a follow up survey to see whether the new systems put in place have addressed their concerns. It is absolutely essential that their voices are heard.'

Responding to the findings of the report, Miriam Rosen, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector said:

'We welcome the report and acknowledge the concerns raised by children. It is really important that inspectors see things as they really are. That’s why all our inspections of children’s homes since April have been unannounced, and we’re making similar changes to the way we inspect care in boarding and residential schools. Under our new inspection arrangements, we’re making sure that inspectors spend the bulk of their time talking with children and young people and observing daily life in the home. We look forward to Roger Morgan’s follow up survey which will help us to be sure that the changes we’ve made are having the impact we expect.'

The top three suggestions by children of what inspectors should do when carrying out inspections were checking that the place is suitable and ‘homely’ for children to live in, speaking with children to ask about their experience living there and observing how staff and children get on with each other. As one young person said, ‘Talk to people, check paperwork, check rooms to make they’re safe and give points on how they can do things better. I think they should also try and talk to the kids to see if we are OK with where we live’.

The experience of the children surveyed suggests that by and large inspectors are asking the right things of young people. Seventy-five per cent of children who responded felt that they were able to get their views across to an inspector and 83% said that inspectors were good at listening to children. When listening to children’s views, 61% of children felt inspectors took their views as seriously as those of staff or carers, but 39% were either not sure or did not think their views were given the same weight.

When inspectors talked with children, 51% of the children who responded were asked for their views as part of a group by an inspector and 73% had talked to inspectors on their own. However, two children said that their carer or the manager of the home was present when they were speaking to inspectors without other children present.

As part of an inspection, children are asked to complete a questionnaire, and just over 50% of children who responded filled in a questionnaire for the inspector. A small number of children who completed the questionnaire were concerned about confidentiality. For example, four children had said that staff read the questionnaire, which had their names on. This concern prevented some children being truthful in their response.

The report showed that 22% of children said that changes were made immediately after an inspection while the remaining said nothing had changed. However, changes are only needed if inspectors find the home or school does not meet the necessary requirements.

While 25% of children did not think that inspectors should change the way they carried out their inspections, the top three suggestions from children for changes to inspections were for inspectors to spend more talking to them, be more friendly and approachable, and ask more children to get a wider range of opinions.

Notes to Editors

1. Social care inspection: the children’s audit is available on the Children’s Rights Director’s website and the Ofsted website

The report is the children’s view of a series of Ofsted’s inspection in 2011. 224 children responded to a web survey based on around 60 different inspections.

Although 224 children responded to the audit survey, not all of them answered all the questions. The main reason for this is that only 149 children told us they had known the inspection was happening. Therefore, only these 149 would have been able to answer questions about their experiences of inspections.

The survey took place before April 2011. Since then Ofsted has made a number of changes to its inspection frameworks for children’s homes and boarding and residential special schools.

2. The Children’s Rights Director for England has independent statutory duties to ascertain and report the views of children living away from home or in care, to advise on children’s rights and welfare, and to raise matters he considers significant to the rights or welfare of the children in his remit.

3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

4. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 123 1231 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.

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