Nearly 1,000 children’s centres across England have not been inspected for over five years, according to new analysis published today (Monday 22 January 2018) by the charity, Action for Children.
The Government suspended Ofsted inspections in September 2015 ‘on a short-term basis’ pending a consultation on the future of children’s centres, which has not taken place. Had inspections not been suspended, the charity estimates 969 children’s centres – around 40 per cent of the total – would now have been assessed for quality of performance and impact.
While the suspension has been in place, Ofsted has still been responsible for emergency inspections of centres if a safeguarding concern is raised. However, a Freedom of Information request sent to the inspectorate by Action for Children, in July 2017, revealed no such emergency inspections were carried out as none were required.
Before the suspension, Ofsted was required to inspect centres no later than five years after the previous inspection4. Inspections collect evidence on aspects such as the safety of the centre, how its public finances are managed, how well it serves young children and parents in the area and its success in identifying prospective families in most need.
Chief executive of Action for Children, Sir Tony Hawkhead, said: “The Government acknowledges that children’s centres have an ‘important role to play’ in ensuring all children get the best possible start in life, but the ongoing freeze of Ofsted inspections is undermining them.
“Without evidence from Ofsted about how centres can improve, central government has left local authorities with no clear national standards or framework for these vital services.
“How are we to know how well families are being supported, or the impact of the £1bn of public money spent on children’s centres since 2015? Would we allow all schools and hospitals to go uninspected for so long?
“While it continues to drag its feet, central government is letting down tens of thousands of children and families who need support now. It urgently needs to push through its overdue review of early years services so children’s centres have clarity about how they should be working, what they should be achieving and the accountability framework they are working to.”