Dads and Ofsted’s consultation on Sure Start inspections

29 November 2012

Ofsted has launched a consultation on proposals for a revised framework for the inspection of Sure Start Children’s Centres. One of the items out for consultation– Question 3 in the consultation – is the topics on which CCs will be inspected. There used to be 30 of these. Now there are to be three. They are:

• access to services by young children and their families

• the quality and impact of practice and services

• the effectiveness of leadership, governance and management.

It is good to see that parental engagement remains at the heart of the inspection framework. However, the problem with the drafting is that they do not specify the need to engage with male as well as female parents. The term ‘and their families’ suggests this, but does not require it, because the term ‘families’ can be interpreted to mean ‘mothers’ – and often is.

Other Coalition policy is clear on the need to include fathers: right at the beginning, this Coalition committed to ‘supporting shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy’ and followed this with the important policy documents SUPPORTING FAMILIES IN THE FOUNDATION YEARS and THE HEALTHY CHILD PROGRAMME. More recently, the Coalition has made clear that it plans to encourage maximum sharing of parental leave in a baby’s first year and will amend the Children Act to make clear that both parents should provide substantial care for children provided this is in the child’s best interests. What’s more, currently, OFSTED inspects Sure Start Children’s Centres on access to and use of services by fathers, and it seems unlikely to be the intention of the new framework that this be lost.

To achieve this, the new OFSTED inspection framework must look at parental engagement by sex and the wording needs to be revised in two simple ways:

• access to services by young children and their families, including their fathers and any father figures

• the quality and impact of practice and services on male as well as female clients

• the effectiveness of leadership, governance and management.

Here is a link to the consultation document on Ofsted’s website. The closing date for the consultation is 11 January 2013. Question 3 on page 7 of the document is the key question. Please respond to that question, stressing the importance of the framework ensuring that parental engagement by fathers as well as mothers is identified, even if you don’t have responses to give to other questions. Fill in the electronic questionnaire here.

Go here for a Word or PDF version of the questionnaire that can be filled in by hand and posted.


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