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The Pre-School Learning Alliance has written to Ofsted asking for details of the frequency of inspection downgrades.
The Freedom of Information (FoI) request was submitted yesterday following rising concerns about the fairness of the inspection process and complaint-driven inspections of early years providers.
The organisation has asked Ofsted to provide data on how many settings have been visited by inspectors following a complaint in the last two years, as well as information on how many inspections have resulted in a providers rating being downgraded during the quality assurance process. The FoI request also asks how many inspectors have Early Years Professional (EYP) status or the equivalent.
Speaking about the decision to submit the FoI request, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said: “For months now, the sector has been voicing its concerns about the fairness and consistency of Ofsted inspections. We have received numerous complaints from settings who have undergone a complaint- or concern-triggered inspection and have been told they cannot achieve anything higher than a ‘satisfactory’ grade as a result. Others have been informed that they are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ on the day of their inspection, only to be downgraded during a quality assurance process about which there is little, if any, meaningful information.
“The sheer volume of complaints about such incidents shows that this an issue that cannot, and must not, be ignored and yet, for all intents and purposes, Ofsted seems to be doing just that.
“Ofsted claims that it aims to be transparent in the way it goes about inspection and regulation work and yet, as providers will know, this is far from the case in practice. We believe that it is vital that the information on inspection downgrades that we have requested is released as, unless Ofsted recognises the scale of this problem, the issue will remain unresolved.”
He added: “Providers should feel confident that the professionals conducting inspections – inspections that could determine whether or not they are eligible for free entitlement funding, or in some cases, whether or not they can continue to operate as a provider – are experts in their fields and that their judgements are based on a solid knowledge and understanding of the early years.”
Asked about the FoI request, an Ofsted spokesperson said: “Our early years inspectors are fully trained experts who have a background in early childhood before they are even considered for the job.
“They base their ratings on what they see and hear at inspection and what they know about the provision. More than nine out of ten nurseries and other early years providers say they are satisfied with their inspection. If a provider is not content with the way the inspection was undertaken then we will be happy to discuss the matter with them.
“Anyone can see current and previous ratings for early years providers on our website.”
Earlier this month Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), met with Ofsted director Sue Gregory after members the organisation raised concerns about inconsistant and complaint-driven inspections.
After the meeting, Mrs Tanuku said: "The meeting was a positive start to what we hope will be a constructive dialogue to address the sector's concerns.
"We are glad Ofsted has agreed to investigare the cases and the issues we have raised."
NDNA has organised a series of workshops to address inspection concerns. For more information, visit www.daynurseries.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1560837/ndna-to-host-ofsted-workshops-to-address-inspection-concerns