June’s blog

June O'Sullivan, LEYF CEO

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Get on Board Ofsted: Listen and Respond to the #OfstedBigConversation

I came back from holiday last week to a bunch of emails which included one from Ofsted asking for feedback on their performance.  I laughed out loud and went straight to the LinkedIn group that began four months ago when I asked a question about people’s experience of the new Ofsted attitude.

Back in May, I was becoming increasingly perplexed by the new Ofsted approach to regulation and their aggressive tone. They seemed to have taken a big dislike to the early years sector despite Ofsted’s own report for 2013 recording continual improvement with 68% of settings good or outstanding.

I was baffled by their stance and wondered if it was just my interpretation. Not at all! The deep, continuous river of comments flowed from thoughtful, caring and responsible people across the sector. Now with nearly 400 comments, a raft of examples and complaints, exponential increase in appeals to complaint-initiated inspections that river has become a swollen torrent. So the sector has built a raft and is keen to get Ofsted on board.


We have designated the weekend of the 13th and 14th of September as the #OfstedBigConversation weekend. Meetings will be hosted across England.  Some will cater for larger groups and some may be three people sharing a pot of tea in their kitchen.  What matters is we are all thinking, conversing and considering the key issues. We want to produce an EY proposal for Ofsted. This will identify the key issues and barriers to progress, what would help and how we can build an exemplary regulatory system together which is mutually respected and highly effective.

In preparation #EYTalking will feature Ofsted as the main agenda item on Tuesday September 3rd at 8pm.  Nursery World has kindly offered support and will publish the dates and venues and times of our #OfstedBigConversation and our key questions. They are very welcome to attend the meeting in London.

Success is, according to Frank Sinatra, all about spreading the news.  Let me just paraphrase:

“Start spreading the news

We’re planning today

We want you to be a part of it

Ofsted, Ofsted

These Early Years folks

Are longing to say

Right through the very heart of it

Ofsted, Ofsted”

OK, enough…! Tweet, chat, blog and all the time make the relevant links. Invite local authorities, support staff, policy makers, politician’s researchers, academics.

The bigger the conversation the better.

 Ofsted Map


When we get to the meeting these will be my ten opening questions.  I hope they help focus on the key issues for us all.

  1. What do we understand by Ofsted’s dual roles of regulation and improvement? Sir Michael Wilshaw said Ofsted is not an improvement agency but an agent of improvement please can we all agree what this should look like?
  2. Can Ofsted please explain and clarify its rationale for so many outdated complaint initiated inspections so we can actually better address the issues? What do we suggest as an alternative?
  3. Can Ofsted consider the role of an independent Early Years provider advising on the Quality Assurance process which has been given as the reason for so many downgraded judgments?
  4. Can Ofsted ask one of the new Regional leads to attend some of our meetings?
  5. Can Ofsted agree a sector advisory group to help shape their thinking and strategy? This is good practice in many other sectors and is considered to add great value?
  6. If the new model of inspection is to work, and by and large we like it, then can Ofsted seriously think about how inspectors are trained and supported to allow the whole inspection process to be a “grown up” and mutually respectful process?
  7. Can inspectors be allowed to make judgements that are likely to not be changed by an unaccountable Quality Assurance team which draws on evidence that has never been discussed during the inspection?
  8. Can we all agree Ofsted role in the identification and management of significant incidents as surely these are managerial judgement?
  9.  Can we work with Ofsted to reconsider the heavy weighting given to “Leadership and Management” which will lead to a satisfactory or inadequate judgement irrespective of the quality of teaching and learning?
  10. Can Ofsted work with the sector to help parents receive a very clear and unambiguous understanding of what Ofsted dos that ensures their children get a really good experience?

Remember why this matters. Children deserve the best. Their future is in our hands.  Let’s make sure these are hands of friendship.




  • Chris

    June, this is such an important topic for the future of Early years in all sectors. How can a setting be downgraded due to a complaint (that complaint could be from a rival setting, or from anywhere – especially if they can be anon. Everywhere else complaints must be signed before they are taken seriously. I know with safeguarding it can be difficult but things must be fir to all concerned. Good luck with your conference. I cant be there but my colleague will be. Thanks for your concern and hard work for early years.
    Chris North London

  • Cathy Magicminding Smith

    What if we can’t get to a meeting? I could do something within my network and feed back the results. Is this acceptable?

  • Natasha Ricketts

    I feel very disheartened by our last ofsted inspection. This was in late June this year, I was unfortunately out of the country at the time so my staff were left to deal with the inspection alone. This normally would of been absolutely fine but we not due an inspection until next year. On the day of SAID inspection my deputy was told we are being inspected due to a complaint that have been made to Ofsted!! The inspector told my deputy that the incident had taken place last year November 2012 and the reason they did not come in then was they were waiting for another phone call????? My staff had to call me on holiday and I called back to speak with the inspector who informed of the incident. I challenged her on this asking why it was only now they were acting on it nearly 7 mths later? To which she told me they had only received the phone call 2 wks prior??? So I given completely different information from her from what she had said to my deputy. She also told me that there had been an accusation made that most of my staff were unqualified and did not process CRBs. She was shown all my staff’s qualifications and given there CRB numbers. As you could imagine my staff were under a lot of pressure! Thus leading to them to panicking. We have always had a very high GOOD grading from Ofsted but this time we were down graded. Once I got back off my hols I waited for my report to arrive…… 3 wks later it arrived. I read over it 4 times as I was in total amazement that my OFFICIAL report had so many grammar errors and sentences were not finished…….. How can this be if I have to show parents this? How am I supposed to hold any faith in the system if I’m getting reports back in such poor condition? All I always left with was a huge phone bill and a bitter taste in my mouth

  • Dawn Heaps

    I too feel the issue of who investigates appeals is essential. When I complained about the wording of my report being changed after I had agreed the draft report Ofsted blamed Prospects and Prospects blamed Ofsted’s Quality Assurance Team. The outcome of my appeal was that prospects felt unable to further my appeal as the decision to change their inspectors report had not been made by them. I was informed my next step was to launch a second appeal to Ofsted which I did only to be told that it was the Quality Assurance team that would be investigating the Quality Assurance team – how can the team investigate itself without their being bias. I gave up as felt it was a waste of my time.

    • Addison Jones

      Precisely. The complaints system is flawed as much as the enforcement and investigative regime is.They claim independence when they basically are indoctrinated in their own culture so they are unlikely to take an independent view unless it is so explicit, that they have to apologize.
      As professionals they are not likely to be self critical.

      • Mr Creosote

        I managed to extract three apologies from them, but the last one (the most serious) took nearly three months and the intervention of Sue Gregory to secure – we are still waiting for a re-inspection and the commercial and reputational damage goes on!

        • Addison Jones

          The commercial damage as well as the stress is irreparable.We were told that it would be unlikely that a re-inspection would take place within 12 months. So its interesting to see that their inspection regimes will have to be cut for so called failing settings. It is interesting though that you managed to get her intervention. I have tried several times to get the names of people in the executive divisions, but have been fobbed off.
          They seem to believe they are Lord protectors, which I am sure is not their role.

          • Mr Creosote

            Getting past the gate-keepers was a bit of a challenge!

    • Bev Agnew

      I am in the middle of an appeal due to an inspection that was flawed from start to finish. We were judged ‘Inadequate’ originally due to being short staffed. After six months and a number of telephone calls the report arrived actually stating that I had far too many staff which was illegal. I challenged a number of inaccuracies in the report, the main one being that we were not infact short staffed. Ofsted conceded that we were not short staffed and apologised for the inspector not making it clear that it was infact the poor deployment of the staff with their evidence being that children in the 2-3 year age group argued over a toy and a 2 month old baby cried for her bottle. The original report was removed as they had made a mistake saying that I had too many staff which made them look stupid and was replaced with the Deployment of staff issue. I reached the end of the complaint process through Ofsted and am currently challenging them through the Independant Adjudicator and through the Parliamentary Ombudsman via my MP.

  • Roxanna Lowe

    i am afraid that even with two inspectors the same experiences will happen at appeal level! I speak from experience so i am not on board with this whole two inspectors idea unless Ofsted review the whole process and an independent organisation is responsible for investigating complaints and appeals.

  • Addison Jones

    The problem as I see it is not with Ofsted, but with the Bureaucrats in the Department Of Education, who set up the regulatory framework. Ofsted seem to be impervious to any censure,
    Therefore the only solution has to be political, in getting MPS to review the working of the Childrens Act.
    Remember the Childrens Act 2006 lays out Ofsted responsibilities.
    Their powers are wide and onerous:Therefore they cannot concentrate on raising standards in EYFS.
    Resources Are spread too thinly therefore they appear to be the jack of all trades and masters of none.
    The Minister Of Education has a profound influence on the way they operate, through Junior ministers.
    How many Ministers of Children have we had in the past three years. At least three, how on earth does that engender confidence in the development of EYFS.
    Politically the Coalition want to cut costs and will continue to do so. Children will be commodified, and batched earlier than ever, to enter preschool with out any proper tailored education.
    This in turn will affect the development of a range of preschool children.
    Ofsted seem to pay lip service to delivery and want to turn Childminders into managers. That is the purpose if the Inspection regime.
    A qualitative approach excludes the basic ingredients, which is the people who deliver the education of under fives, and no fancy metrics on a lap top will change that.

    Further having been the victim of a false and unfortunate allegation made by a parent.
    The way Ofsted and other agencies handled the allegit, in my opinion was poor biased and unprofessional
    It is quite apparent that Ofsted were incapable of providing independent enforcement and seem to have a culture of win at all costs. The complaints regime is NOT independent, and is designed to lock out the inconsistencies in the application of their decision making. So that bad decisions are excluded or redacted from Freedom of Information, when requested..
    Anonymous or malicious complaints, are kept secret, whether they are true or false. Allowing culpable clients to blackmail the service provider.

    Senior officers have far too much power and are not accountable, nor are their inspectors.
    I have a tool kit in my possession which purports to be an independent view. As long as They control inspections Their voice will always be louder.

  • Simona McKenzie

    Parents’ views? absolutely vital especially for cms whose services for families and care for children can span for years not just a few terms

  • Zoe Wright

    Agree with Mr Creosote. I’d also like to address the thorny issue of appeals against judgements. Please.

  • Mr Creosote

    Can we also include the following topics of discussion:
    1. All inspections should be carried out by two inspectors – or at least one inspector and one note taker – notes to be signed off by both parties at the end of the inspection. Too often, when it comes to an appeal, it’s their word against ours and because Prospects oversee their own inspectors, guess whose recollection of events takes precedent!
    2. Press hard for the introduction of “Parent View” on Ofsted’s website. This is available for schools, why is it not available for nurseries?? This would at least give some counterbalance to a flawed inspection report and would reduce the commercial and reputational damage caused by one of their duff inspections.

    • June O’Sullivan

      Great ideas. Please come to one of the meetings and share.

      • Mr Creosote

        I plan to go to Tom Shea’s

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