Welcome to the London Ofsted Big Conversation; A Meeting with Three Wise Inspectors on 24th June 2015

July 1st 2015

We met in the London NatWest Head Office in Little Argyle Street on a warm day. Like all OBC we had some regulars and some new people but the mix was like a perfect Hendricks Gin, sparkling and full of fizz balanced with a cool strip of cucumber.

The team was led by Wendy Ratcliff (HMI Early Childhood) who introduced her two colleagues: Kevin Jane (Senior HMI Education) and Sue Will (Early Childhood Senior Officer)

The meeting opened with a presentation about the new Common Inspection Framework (CIF) which was launched last Monday (15th June 2015).  I had the pleasure of attending the launch so was somewhat underwhelmed to have to listen the presentation again.  Wendy sent me a copy for your information as it’s helpful to have as a reference for staff meetings.

Ofsted spent some time reflecting on the consultation process that suggested that 80% of respondents supported the introduction of the CIF but the audience was quite keen to get to the questions.  Here they are:

What’s the difference between an HMI and an Ofsted Inspector?
Her Majesty’s Inspector is a professional inspector who is approved by and is a civil servant.
An Ofsted Inspector has been recruited to do a number of inspections in addition to their day jobs. Both have met Ofsted recruitment assessments.

Will we get notice of inspections?
Yes, providers will get half a day’s notice of inspection except for childminders who will continue to receive the same level of notice as now.
However, Ofsted retains the right to continue ‘No Notice inspections’ in some circumstances, for example priority inspections or settings with an inadequate judgement.
Outstanding schools will continue to be exempt from inspection.  Good schools will get a short inspection (Section 8) approximately every 3 years. Good and outstanding schools account for approximately 80% of schools. However, if during the short inspection the lead Inspector feels that evidence is inconclusive or that there are strong indicators that the school is better than it was when it was last inspected; or conversely indicating a decline, the lead inspector may convert the inspection to a full Section 5, stay on for another day and be joined by other inspectors. The purpose of this is to secure a strong evidence base which may result in a change of judgement for the school’s overall effectiveness. If an inadequate school converts to an academy it will be inspected as a new establishment after 5 terms by full inspection (section 5). 

Who will notify the setting of the impending inspection?
Most likely the inspector who will lead or conduct the inspection.  They will inform the setting by calling the registered person in order to avoid a situation where a junior member of staff thinks it’s a hoax or a prank call and forgets to tell you.

The call to the setting will usually be made by the inspector, who will ask to speak with the most senior person in charge if the provider is not available. In exceptional circumstances an administrator may make initial contact with the setting, if for example, the inspector is not available. The inspector will then contact the setting as soon as is possible following this call – this ensures that the setting receives the half day notice.

Please refer to page 9 of the Early years inspection handbook 

Ofsted assured us that they are now responsible for, and delivering all the training themselves and hope to have trained around 850 early years inspectors from the ISPs during  July and August.   

Inspectors have been issued with handbooks which have been written to take in account feedback from the Sector.
Ofsted will be running information sessions all around the country, which they hope will be as popular as OBC to give presentations and answer queries.
There are no changes to the reporting format apart from a change in headings and  the inclusion of the written safeguarding judgement. (NB. Ofsted already report about safeguarding but with the CIF, there will be a written judgement included in the text.)
There will be separate registration handbook and compliance handbook for EY in September. Inspecting Safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings.

What are the areas of inspections?
Much remains the same but the wording of judgements has changed:

  1. Effectiveness of leadership and management (including safeguarding)
  2. Quality of teaching, learning and assessment
  3. Personal development, behaviour and welfare
  4. Outcomes for Children

How is Ofsted considering what teaching looks like in the Early Years?
Ofsted say they have no preferred teaching style but have produced guidance which is in the Early Years Inspection Handbook. In essence teaching is framed within the characteristics of effective learning. The main focus will be on the interactions with the children including:

  1. Communicating and modelling language
  2. Showing
  3. Explaining
  4. Demonstrating
  5. Exploring ideas
  6. Encouraging
  7. Questioning
  8. Recalling
  9. Providing a narrative for what they are doing
  10. Facilitating
  11. Setting challenges

It takes account of the equipment, physical environment and the routine and structure of the day and the expectations placed on the children.
Integral to teaching is how practitioners know, understand and can do, take account of the children’s learning characteristics and dispositions of learning and use this information to plan and monitor the children’s progress.
We have asked that Ofsted consider reviewing progress on this in six months to provide reassurance that inspectors are using this approach and not overlaying their personal interpretation and marking the nursery down.

Is safeguarding a graded judgement?
No, but inspectors must report whether it is effective or not and it aligns with the guidance. The inspector will also look at the use and impact of the EYPP as a means of safeguarding children in the broadest sense for example getting additional support for children with cognitive delays or more at risk to failure due to family circumstances.

How will Ofsted inspect British Values?
This led to a lively discussion but generally Ofsted have a view that Early Years providers already focus on children’s personal, social and emotional development. The early years foundation stage framework supports early years providers to do this in an age appropriate way, by ensuring children learn right from wrong, mix and share with other children and value other’s views, know about similarities and differences between themselves and others, and challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes.’
We have asked that Ofsted consider reviewing progress on this in six months to provide reassurance that inspectors are using this approach and not overlaying their personal interpretation and marking the nursery down.

What does it mean when Ofsted check attendance?
Ofsted will ask about attendance within the safeguarding remit as well as part of the personal development, behaviour and welfare judgement. However, it’s worth remembering there is no statutory requirement for attendance. They would be interested in how we manage persistent absences and check that children are safe. We need to be articulate about how we settle children and how we monitor children’s progress. The group also noted that some Local Authorities have the power to take the money away from a nursery of a child fails to attend which is something we need to monitor.
We have asked that Ofsted consider reviewing progress on this in six months to provide reassurance that inspectors are using this approach and not overlaying their personal interpretation and marking the nursery down.

How will baseline assessment be addressed?
Baseline assessment hasn’t been introduced yet. Ofsted will continue to accept that each setting uses different ways of tracking the children to show their progress. WE need to remain alert to the introduction on baseline assessment. Expect an announcement from the DfE on Thursday.

What progress is being made regarding complaints?
Still the system remains the same with the contractors doing the main complaints procedure themselves. The stats for changing the outcome remain low 5 out of 900.
Ofsted indicated that it will introduce stake-holder, engagement and oversight of the complaints process to ensure that complaints are dealt with fairly and objectively.
We have asked that Ofsted to consider reviewing progress on this in six months and explain how this aligns, if at all, to the announcement at the Ofsted speech “The Future of Education Inspection” about scrutiny committees.   I also look forward to getting a reply to my query to Nick Hudson about the matter.

How can you register childminder agencies in local authorities where they have been judged inadequate for safeguarding?
Ofsted commented that they were familiar with a case and had ensured a rigorous process of registration had been used to support the application. An action plan had been completed and all the weakness were addressed which satisfied Ofsted prior to registration.
They have since clarified the rigorous application process further whereby applicants have to demonstrate their suitability to run an agency, show they have a secure knowledge of all related requirements, which include those for safeguarding and keeping children safe. The visit and the decision to register is made by an HMI.

Can we have further clarity on inspections for Children’s centres?
Ofsted is continuing discussions with the DfE regarding the future of children’s centre inspections. In the meantime, children’s centre inspections will continue under the current statutory regulations and inspection framework.

Regulations prescribe children’s centre inspection intervals as:

  1. CCs established before 31 Aug 2010 must be inspected by 31 Aug 2015 and thereafter by the 5th anniversary of the previous inspection
  2. CCs established after 1 Sept 2010 must be inspected by the 5th anniversary of the date the centre was established and thereafter by the 5th anniversary of the previous inspection.

We asked Ofsted about the 30 months registration period and pointed out the consequence of this included:

  1. Parents anxious because they like to see a judgement
  2. LA paying the lowest funding rate until and inspection judgement was delivered
  3. No inspection during that period means some companies could open up new settings yet no one had judged their first setting as good.

Ofsted were asked to look into the 30 months again.

Thank you Ofsted for having a conversation with us. It has undoubtedly built more confidence in our relationship with you. We will continue to encourage these conversations across England.  There is still much to do but at least we are on a shared pathway. Spread the word. A sector is only taken seriously if it’s coherent, articulate and connected.

After Ofsted left we had a lively conversation about the 30 Hour Offer.  We agreed to launch the BIGGER CHILDCARE CONVERSATION.  So watch out for my next blog….