The downside of being a Lead Member for Children and Young People is the time and effort that I have to put aside to prepare for inspections whether it is by Estyn or CSSIW. Last week we had ten Estyn Inspectors in Wrecsam for the week inspecting the Local Education Authority. I have just been told today that TEN CSSIW inspectors will descend on Wrecsam in January for 3 DAYS to inspect the Local Safeguarding Childrens Board which is frankly an outrageous waste of money. In addition to that there will be an annual inspection of our two Children's homes, Tanydre and Tapley Avenue; there will be the annual inspection of our Adoption Service...and our Fostering Service, which are separate inspections! Then we will probably have a Safeguarding inspection sometime in 2011 and your guess is as good as mine whether we will have an inspection of Youth Services and Youth Justice in the next 12 months.
Oh yes, I forgot, the schools, all eighty of them which will need inspecting using a new format introduced by Estyn to make sure no inspector loses their jobs. Estyn have changed the system of inspection now to grade schools as Excellent, Good, Adequate or crap. We've been told no one gets excellent and if you get adequate you get re-inspected in 12 months and of course if you're crap you're in special measures so that only leaves you one grade to get if you want to get left alone for 5 years to teach children.
If all this wasn't so serious it would be funny. But can you imagine how much this all costs across all the twenty two authorities?...it must be millions, which could be going into front-line teaching and social care. Again it's not only the actual cost of the inspection, but it's the cost of preparation time for the authority's officers and teachers.
I firmly believe one of the reasons that our education standards are poor and falling is that there are too many people inspecting and distracting front line staff away from what they really should be doing.
It's all very well for Leighton Andrews to demand that local education authorities spend more of their budgets in schools but he should start with his own department and reduce the burden and cost of this stifling inspection regime. The same should apply to Edwina Hart and Gwenda Thomas with CSSIW.