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

August 19th 2013

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.

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.