The London OBC October 2023
Thank you those who attended the London OBC meeting on the 25th October. It was interesting to receive comments from many attendees about the continuing benefits of being engaged with the regulator especially as we have a new Chief Inspector coming in January, Sir Martyn Oliver.
I started the meeting with a summary of the issues regarding the expansion of childcare policy. So much of this is a worry and the language around the sector has become very negative. I was keen to point out to people that too much deficit language is never going to help us recruit staff. So, I balanced it out with some stories from the children that remind us of the joy we get from working children.
There is an interesting report just published by the University of Leeds called Retention and Return, Do have a read because among the doom and gloom, they found that staff love working with children and families and 50% would come back if the circumstances in three areas would improve: Pay, Status and a public valuing of the work they do, and High quality CPD and Career Promotion.
- If elected, Labour will carry out a review of the Early Years in England to be chaired by former Ofsted Chief, Sir David Bell. They may do half the review before the election and complete the review after the election.
- There are several manifestos emerging in preparation for the election, from Early Years Alliance, EECC and the NDNA. They are all in agreement with a focus on a workforce plan, an improved support for children with SEND and we the EYA is keen on an emergency financial rescue package for the sector. Good news is that healthy meals are being advocated for in Early Years settings. I would add a national vision for supporting disadvantaged children.
- The number of nurseries forced to close has increased by half over the last academic year, according to the research from the NDNA, who found that 72% more nurseries closed between September 2022 and September 23, which is a 50% rise, and the higher portion of those are in areas of deprivation.
- Family hubs have been rolled out in 75 local authorities. The funding for them has been diverted from the Early Years Covid Emergency fund. The hubs are struggling to expand because they are short of buildings and it will be interesting to see how they use schools, especially with population drop.
- The portion of disadvantaged 2-year-olds eligible for funded childcare places plummeted over the last seven years. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, only a quarter of young disadvantaged children are eligible for a place in 2023, compared to two in five in 2015, and this could fall further given the way the expansion plan has been set up, which is heavily weighted towards the higher earning parents.
- There is an increase in the number of children with post Covid trauma, poor CLL and poor PSED. Support is limited and access to SALT is difficult as there are 25% level of vacancies.
- The Quality of new Level 3 staff seems much lower, Ofsted please note and up the ante on inspections of training providers. This was confirmed by the audience.
Next Steps (in my humble opinion)
- Let’s find out what children actually are dealing with before we write them off as the “Covid generation”.
- If we know more about children now being described as experiencing the Covid effect, then we can design training that helps.
- Let’s do some research about space requirement before we get bounced into agreeing to “remeasuring space” to fit more children.
- Can Ofsted inspect all these small private training agencies responsible for training apprentices so we can clarify what teaching and learning they are getting as? So many don’t know any theory and therefore don’t have the “why” as to how we do things.
- Let’s find out what would be a salary that satisfies
As with all OBC gatherings, we invite Ofsted to present new research and then an update on the state of the London Early Years from an Ofsted perspective. Wendy Ratcliff and Sam Sleeman-Boss gave a presentation about the Best Start in Life Part 2.
Ofsted wants to build a research evidence base of children aged 0-4. It is planning 3 reviews followed by a focus on babies.
- Part 1 examined factors for high quality ECEC and sets the scene of the challenges of a split-system (school/childminder/nursery)
- Part 2 focused on 3 prime areas of learning and used the same evidence and research that underpins inspection framework and what children need to access high quality curriculum
- Part 3 will explore specific areas of learning.
The key messages for Part 2 were:
- There is a need for careful and deliberate curriculum planning.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of social and emotional wellbeing.
- Introduce and embed vocabulary.
- Language structures need careful thought.
- Staff may want to consider how their curriculum identifies small steps to help children build on what they already know, includes explicit modelling and teaching of fundamental movement skills, provides activities that deepen and extend a child’s capabilities.
- Give children the space and time they need to practice including learning fundamental movement skills.
- Practice makes permanent.
Did you Know?
We were treated to a round-up of the work of the London team (Jen Gee SHMI, Linda du Preez EYSO, Caroline Preston EYRI and Anne Maher EYRI). There are 40 regulatory inspectors and 89 Ofsted inspectors in London, looking after 16,000 settings. We were all a bit surprised by the high number, although they did tell us they were very busy quite a few times! 95% of settings are judged Good or Outstanding.
With regards to the changes to the EYFS, Ofsted reassured the audience that their inspection methodology remains the same; that inspectors do not have a checklist of compliance against the EYFS regulations but are focused on what it is like to be a child at their setting every day, and not just on the day of inspection.
However, participants were not entirely convinced and worried about data that showed a 39% drop in Outstanding to Good, the lack of recognition about the staffing crisis during inspections and the impact of their reliance on Bank or Agency staff. There was general dismay at the move away from “best fit” which has meant inspectors want to see consistent evidence of each criterion to achieve an Outstanding which is not always possible and can weaken the overall experience a child receives.
The impact of a challenging inspection was also referenced and while some inspectors are very warm and able to engage and lead a constructive pedagogical conversation, others remain distant, and checklist focused and unwilling to partner the setting on the inspection.
Caroline Preston, Early Years Regulatory Inspector explained that there was a robust complaint and checking process internally and the inspectors had to demonstrate robust evidence to justify their judgment. I think the audience was not fully convinced and was also interested to know when the outcome of the Government consultation on the Ofsted complaints process would be released.
Should you wish they also have YouTube videos (with Sam Sleeman-Boss) as well as FAQs for providers, and parent guides on their website & blog. Here are the links:
- Early years: registered providers – YouTube
- Ofsted inspections: what EY providers and practitioners need to know – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Guides for parents: how early years settings are inspected – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Since the meeting:
What is the Outcome of the DfE Consultation on qualifications?
We had not received any response when we had the meeting but since then we have been issued with the result of the consultation. Read the full document
Here are my top five changes:
- The requirement for practitioners to hold a level 2 maths qualification to count within the level 3 staff: child ratios is removed and now sits with the setting managers.
- A new set of criteria and process for an experienced-based route to level 3 is being developed.
- All staff who have obtained a Level 2 and/or Level 3 qualification since 30 June 2016 must also hold a valid Paediatric First Aid qualification to be included in the required staff: child ratios.
- Students on placement and apprentices can count in staff: child ratios at the level below their level of study only if their manager deems them sufficiently competent and responsible.
- There will be £100m capital funding distributed by local authorities to settings and schools to expand new childcare places across the country.
We ended the meeting with the video from the Early Education and Care Coalition (EECC).
The Early Education and Childcare Coalition was developed in response to the growing pressures facing the sector and families. The Coalition is hosted by the Women’s Budget Group, the UK’s leading feminist economics think tank, and funded by the Kiawah Trust, a charitable foundation that supports initiatives to tackle educational and gender inequality.
The Coalition has been co-designed with 30 organisations including children’s charities, parent campaign groups, provider membership bodies, anti-poverty campaigners, NGOs, trade unions representing early educators, and business lobbying groups. The EECC advocate a ‘rescue and reform’ approach: short-term measures that will stabilise the sector now, alongside a national programme of reform and investment and is supported by a range of experts from across educational and economic policy, and partner with think tanks and research organisations who share our aims.
Thank you again for coming. We always have the London OBC in working hours and in person because this is what London settings told us they prefer. However, given the importance of maintaining our relationship with Ofsted, maybe some more of the 16,000 providers in London (which is Ofsted’s biggest region) might try and attend!