OFSTED HAS PUBLISHED NEW VIEWS REGARDING THE REGISTRATION OF HOMES WHICH INCLUDES A REGISTERED MANAGER (RM) BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR TWO HOMES.
The previous iterations of the Ofsted ‘Introduction to children’s homes’ described such a situation as ‘exceptional’, determined as meaning rare by the authoring group of the Quality Standards.
This publication is a unilateralist decision. There has been no public consultation.
It is not a small amendment. It is a significant change to the understanding that has underpinned the quality standards.
As an amendment to established ways of working it amounts to the creation of a new regulation and as such there should be public consultation where concerns and discussion can be raised.
The Quality Standards for children’s homes and regulations were written in a specific way to uphold researched evidenced practice about leadership and management of children’s homes. There is no known new evidence upon which to decide to go a different way.
This blog is concerned with outlining the deeper and wider thinking that can be raised in a public consultation. This blog is looking at the principles.
It may be that Ofsted is concerned with the pragmatics of the situation where there is an insufficient supply of RMs. The new Ofsted version states Ofsted ‘may’ consider such an application, be satisfied that the manager is able to manage effectively each home, and the care of the children, on a daily basis, that there is an effective quality assurance monitoring process, and whether there are suitable arrangements in each home for a senior person to oversee each home in the manager’s absence.
A separate decision is to be made about the RM’s capacity to manage each home.
This presents a real issue. It has always been the case that a RM must be seen as a fit person and failure to meet this threshold and an application of a RM is refused. It leads to a disqualification from working with children, though Ofsted can be requested to review on other settings and at other times. This has been an obstacle for people coming forward. They now face this being doubled.
Outlining major concerns regarding changes opening registration of one RM: two homes.
NCERCC: What works in RCC research review – leadership
The NCERCC research review What Works in RCC notes leadership as a core feature of positive RCC.
“Clear and coherent leadership is another fundamental component of high quality practice. The role of the head of a home is influential in determining the quality of care. Children’s homes managers have to keep their fingers on the pulses of their homes, build and develop their teams, and provide an example in terms of practice with young people.”
When the Quality Standards were being written we held as a defining element, derived from research and practice, that RM need to be accessible and available. They have a joint role in management and leadership of practice. They provide the psychological ‘holding function’ for a home. They should not be distracted by their own thoughts or be emotionally unavailable (through stress or anxiety).
RMs are crucial for determining the culture of the home. Their psychological availability sets the tone for that of the staff. The manager needs to be able to be attentive and attuned to the staff and children in order for them to be attentive and attuned to the children.
As Leslie Hicks notes, managers need to know what is going on and what is to be done. They can only do so by being directly involved in their home and not have their preoccupation distracted or diverted. If this should happen then the containment and holding of the home is not as it needs to be. The interactions of the home are affected and the staff and young people will not see themselves reflected in the response from the RM. This affects the quality of the relationships, drifting from the personal to the administrative and instrumental. The home is no longer a social environment and place where developing selves experience the potential for relationships.
NCERCC is concerned with the potential of this change to establish a major move away from the foundations of the theory and practice of RCC that underpins the quality standards and regulations.
The concept of one home and one manager and any more being exceptional was a prudent stretch of the knowledge and practice. There was a great deal of discussion over several meetings regarding the idea of having one manager for two homes. It was only thought possible in the most exceptional of cases and with exceptional managers. This discussion has recurred several times since the regulations were instigated and with the same conclusion that it should be rare.
One manager: one home is a key feature based on evidence, theory and practice.
NCERCC recognises that there is a practical problem regarding staffing homes with RMs, there is a shortfall currently.
However this seemingly pragmatic decision offers a solution but is not the solution:
- A major obstacle to staff becoming RMs is the observable effects (stress and anxiety) of leadership and management currently.
- By adding additional stress to already existing burdened staff it may exacerbate the recruitment and retention issues.
Standards may change according to new researched evidence. It was a repeated conclusion regarding the writing of the quality standards that the principles of good practice should not be affected by the pragmatics of a situation. It was understood that the solutions were to be found structurally.
NCERCC is not aware of any published research evidence base that has led to a rethinking of the preoccupation necessary for RCC leadership and management. NCERCC has requested the evidence be shared.
The situation seems to be structural.
It may be a consideration that the homes need to have identical or very similar statements of purpose. The same regulations applying to preparedness for care of the needs in the home must apply. The RM as an integral aspect and leader of the care must have the required knowledge or experience applied.
In early discussions of the change, a view is emerging that a RM operating across two homes is in actuality acting as another responsible individual. The task of the RM is to be undertaken in the two homes by supplemental senior staff. This raises the challenge of the knowledge and experience matching the requirements in the quality standards and regulations. This may lead to a revisiting of the work undertaken by the Children’s Workforce Development Council and NCERCC regarding level four qualifications.
Given this situation is not only about internal leadership and management, the quality of the external leadership and management, and monitoring (R44), necessary to support this new formation of management is needed. It may be that there will become a need for standards for these two groups. One change engenders many.
As ever any change in RCC requires the recognition of the importance of threshold concepts, the concepts that are transformational for RCC. This change as it concerns the knowledge and expertise to the practice of the home is transformational.