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Ofsted wanted to ‘cry tears of joy’ during Norfolk children’s services inspection, executive director says

PUBLISHED: 10:00 30 November 2017 | UPDATED: 14:42 30 November 2017

County Hall in Norwich. Picture: Steve Adams

County Hall in Norwich. Picture: Steve Adams

The new executive director of children’s services in Norfolk has said a watchdog inspecting her department wanted to “cry tears of joy” during the visit.

Sara Tough. Photo: Norfolk County Council Sara Tough. Photo: Norfolk County Council

Ofsted spent two weeks at Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department earlier this month, a visit which the council hopes will show changes have been made since it was rated inadequate in both 2013 and 2015.

And, while the full report will not be published until January, new executive director of the department Sara Tough, who started at the end of October, has emailed staff to share some feedback they received.

In the email, which came after a staff briefing, she said she was unable to share Ofsted’s formal judgment before its publication, but said the watchdog “told us that we absolutely know ourselves well and that we had cracked many of the difficult things”.

“They found areas of national best practice in our fostering and adoption services and our recruitment of newly qualified staff,” the email said.

MORE: Ofsted watchdogs begin inspection of Norfolk services for vulnerable children

“They found areas of practice where they wanted to cry tears of joy and said we had ‘turned the tanker’ in our work with looked after children.”

She added: “Inspectors told us that we should be proud of ourselves and they are right – what you have achieved in recent years is impressive and is down to your absolute commitment to Norfolk’s children.

“Now is the time to celebrate what has been achieved and to continue looking forward, so that all children in Norfolk benefit from the child centred practice that was evident across the county, and of course maintain the momentum.

“This inspection has been a fantastic induction for me and I feel privileged to be able to work with you all and move into the next phase of our journey, which I consider to be a really exciting time for children’s services.”

The email said Ofsted had agreed with the areas the department had identified as needing immediate focus, including its Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), case loads for assessments teams and ensuring consistently good practice.

But she said an injection of £12m to reduce the number of children in care, announced in September, “signalled to the inspectors the strong political support, to help us further build on our strengths and transform the system as a whole”.

A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council said: “We look forward to seeing Ofsted’s final report, when it is published next year.

“We received key messages from the Ofsted team over the inspection fortnight, which we shared with the staff at the end of the process, as part of our continuous learning and improvement.”

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