It’s a shocking thing to discover that a woman once trusted as a reliable and caring nursery officer could be so influenced by her Svengali-like boyfriend, that she would exploit the trust placed in her by parents and abuse their children. If nothing else, the report from Little Ted’s published yesterday reminds us of the absolutely critical nature of strong leadership, solid management systems and a positive culture – where staff feel able to discuss concerns about colleagues in a way that will be taken seriously.
It also begs the question about whether Ofsted is doing its job. At LEYF, we have had over 50 Ofsted inspections in their various forms. At best these provide little more than a snapshot of any situation, and like most things will depend on the calibre of the inspector. In my book, a good inspection is determined by a number of factors; it should be unplanned, place a heavy emphasis on what is happening during the day, involve lots of observation and engagement with all staff and children, and be led by at least two inspectors who know what they are doing and are then able and willing to engage and discuss all the issues in a shared and intelligent way. There was a time when we had to write an action plan following an inspection, and I think we need to do that again, sending a copy to the local authority so they are also informed. However, it is also worth noting that inspections from local authority advisory teams, whilst not wielding quite the same power as Ofsted, are equally dependent on the calibre and intelligence of the advisory staff.
Either way this is no time for a game of tit for tat; no-one anticipated the situation in Portsmouth. But since it was allowed to happen, we really must think and act wisely now if we are to have any chance of being ready to head off the next unknown.
- Vanessa George’s nursery provided ‘ideal environment for abuse’ (telegraph.co.uk)