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How Sir Martyn Oliver plans to improve Ofsted

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How Sir Martyn Oliver plans to improve Ofsted

​Sir Martyn Oliver, the new chief inspector of Ofsted, has given his first interview discussing his plans to improve the government organisation. Ofsted plays a vital role in ensuring children’s safety across England and has come under fire in recent years. The previous chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, was criticised for her perceived failure to respond to concerns around school inspections.

Last year saw Ofsted under the spotlight due to an investigation into the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, after a coroner ruled Ofsted contributed to Perry’s death by suicide.

While Ofsted plays a major role in the education system, it also aims to raise standards within children’s social care. Having been a head teacher for 29 years, Sir Martyn has undeniable knowledge of the education system and promises to focus on school inspections, yet there is a need for a focus on the children’s care system too.

Focuses and challenges

Sir Martyn has made it clear in his interview that he is focussing on restoring and strengthening confidence in Ofsted. The first step he has taken is not resuming routine school inspections until inspectors have undergone significant training in response to the inquest. The initial training will be led by Sir Martyn, with subsequent training provided by Mental Health First Aid England.

In his interview, Sir Martyn reiterates that he understands the challenges first-hand. Having been a teacher and head teacher, he has experienced countless inspections and recognises the responsibility of working with children. He is very clear throughout his interview that he wants schools to be inspected with “courtesy, professionalism, respect and empathy”.

Supporting the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

In an article written for Children & Young People Now, Sir Martyn discusses a “weakness in the safety net” for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children. He understands this is where Ofsted can have a big impact. He acknowledges the fact that parents struggle to secure the support their children need and deserve due to coming up against a disjointed system.

There is no denying the statistics - a 53 per cent rise in crisis referrals to children’s mental health services and the number of children’s homes growing year on year, yet 60 children a day are waiting for a bed in a secure children’s home. Sir Martyn says the Ofsted he will lead will “not hesitate in shining a light on what it is like to be a child in this country”.

For the last 8 years, the Chief Inspector of Ofsted has been a former teacher or principal. There is reason to be concerned whether the children’s social care sector is receiving the attention it deserves.

Hearing from the people who matter

Sir Martyn has committed to listening to the professionals and people Ofsted work for. From social workers, teachers, parents, children, and carers, he is open to hearing their thoughts. He acknowledges that Ofsted’s work matters and “getting it right is in everyone’s interest”.

The Big Listen consultation is launching next month and is estimated to run for about 12 weeks. It will allow Sir Martyn to hear directly from parents and professionals about their thoughts on the current Ofsted approach to inspection and regulation.

While there is still speculation in the air, Sir Martyn has a five-year tenure to turn around the public’s opinion of Ofsted. Although, the coming months might just be the most important.

Our associate director, Mark Beaver, commented:

“While there is hope that the Ofsted Sir Martyn leads will have a big impact on disadvantaged and vulnerable children, there is still a lot of scepticism in the children’s social care industry. There is a continuous and alarming need for beds within social care homes and parents are struggling to get the help their children need.

With the increasing costs of running a children’s home, and the struggles to retain staff, is it any wonder that 60 children a day are left waiting for beds? He has a mountain to climb, and I can only hope that there will be a focus on children’s homes.”

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