NORTHUMBERLAND will pilot a new scheme to inspect local authority education and social services provision jointly, writes Chris Johnston.
The move is designed to reduce the burden on local authorities of preparing for separate inspections by the Office for Standards in Education and the Social Services Inspectorate, Estelle Morris, the school standards minister, said. The Audit Commission will also be involved.
Denise Platt, chief inspector of social services, said it was essential that education and social services departments worked together. Chris Tipple, the county education director, said that co-ordinating the two inspections was likely to be helpful as there would be a special focus on children at risk of social exclusion.
Gene Hill, the social services director, said Northumberland had been trying to develop more integrated approaches to helping children in need. The exercise would help identify the county's strengths and weaknesses.
Mr Tipple said the main purpose of the education inspection would still be to assess the effectiveness of the authority in helping to raise standards in schools.
He expected the joint inspection would have little impact on schools, as social services inspectors do not normally visit schools.
Ms Morris also named 16 other LEAs to be subjected to joint inspections by OFSTED and the Audit Commission next year.They are: Bromley, Buckinghamshire, Solihull, Rutland, Lambeth, Warwickshire, Knowsley, Middlesbrough, Islington, Durham, Kingston upon Hull, Barnsley, Stoke-on-Trent, Haringey, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Leicester.
She said that Hackney LEA in east London would be re-inspected by OFSTED before Easter to check that it had improved. As well, there will be a mini-inspection of Rotherham LEA before the end of the year, following recent problems with the standard of school buildings.