Ofsted accused of cover-up over lost Baby P assessment


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The Independent Online

Ofsted has been accused of a staging a “cover-up” by a whistleblowing former employee over its handling of the “Baby P” scandal.

A BBC documentary features an interview with an unnamed Ofsted inspector who details concerns that the watchdog’s original positive assessment of Haringey Council’s children’s service “disappeared” once the grading was suddenly changed from three (good) to one (inadequate) after a further inspection.

The new assessment was made once failings in the children’s department were highlighted after the death, in 2007, of the child, subsequently named as Peter Connelly.

Peter suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over eight months.

His mother, Tracey Connelly, was jailed for a minimum of five years for causing or allowing her son’s death, while boyfriend, Steven Barker, and his brother, Jason Owen, were jailed for the same offence.

“I don’t know who made the decision to delete those files but – if you remove your accountability – I felt that was a cover-up,” the inspector tells the BBC. “I think there were senior people within Ofsted who have never been held accountable for [its] behaviour around the ‘Baby P’ case.”

Although best known for inspecting schools, Ofsted is also responsible for regulating council children’s services. The Haringey investigation happened before Ofsted’s current leadership took office.

Baby P: The Untold Story, to be shown on BBC 1 next Monday, also features interviews with Sharon Shoesmith, who was director of children’s services at the north London council at the time, and Maria Ward, the main social worker who saw the toddler.

Sharon Shoesmith received a six-figure payout for her dismissal (Getty)

Ms Shoesmith, who was sacked but awarded almost £680,000 after claiming unfair dismissal, says she and her colleagues “wept together” when they read about what Peter had suffered.

“The child was so vulnerable and we missed it,” she says. “All of us – the police, the social workers, the health people, all of those health agencies – you could just go through it again and again. If only this, if only that. We missed it and we missed it and we missed it.”

An Ofsted  spokeswoman said it “has always been entirely open about the fact that there was a change between Haringey’s provisional annual performance assessment grade and the judgment finally given (in 2008). “The reasons, as established at the time, were clear. In the first instance data provided by Haringey to contribute towards the provisional assessment was found to be misleading.

“Furthermore, as would be expected, the evidence of serious safeguarding concerns uncovered by the emergency inspection itself ... were taken into account.”