OFSTED was heavily criticised by the communities and local government select committee for failing to detect large-scale child sexual exploitation and they have been told to reinspect all councils in England to make sure work to tackle child sexual exploitation is up to scratch.
A report published by the committee on the child abuse scandal in Rotherham said Ofsted’s inspection framework at the time “lacked sufficient focus" on child sexual exploitation.
The committee recognised that the inspectorate has since updated its inspection framework to put a greater emphasis on CSE but its chair Clive Betts MP, warned that Ofsted’s "credibility is now on the line".
He said: “The perpetrators bear ultimate responsibility for the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham but the ineffectiveness of Ofsted’s inspections contributed to a failure to expose the extent of the problem and to detect Rotherham Council’s ongoing and tragic inability to combat it on the ground. The shortcomings in Ofsted’s inspection arrangements until 2013 leave serious concerns that organised child sexual exploitation in other local authorities may have been missed.”
Other concerns raised about Ofsted in relation to its inspections in Rotherham were that it “failed to get under the skin of what was happening.” Instead of looking closely at frontline services inspectors relied “too much on appearance and paperwork,” the committee said.
Inspectors also failed to probe council officers about CSE and did not pick up on “professional jealousy and incompetence” within Rotherham Council’s children’s social care team.
Association of Directors of Children’s Services president Alan Wood said the report lays bare “the dangers and pitfalls of an inspection regime that is too narrowly focused on processes and procedures.”
An Ofsted spokesman said: “We welcome the report and the committee’s recognition that the changes we have made since 2012 strengthen our ability to uncover where children are at risk.
"We know we didn’t get it right historically in Rotherham and have apologised for those mistakes.”