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People working in the early years sector are being urged to join the ‘Ofsted Big Conversation’ weekend in a bid to get Ofsted to listen to their concerns.
June O’Sullivan, who is spearheading the initiative, being held this weekend on 13 and 14 September, said: “The purpose of the meetings is not to collect evidence of people’s unhappy experience, sadly we have plenty of that, but to create a platform and produce a national response to the current Ofsted approach that can be shared with parents, the press, advisors, supporters and local MPs.
“We want to produce an early years 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.
“People in the sector are genuinely supportive of each other and believe that good pre-school care and education is beneficial for all children but especially those from poor backgrounds. We want to get it right and recognise the need for a regulator which can be trusted to support this desire in a way that is fair, accountable and effective.”
Ms O’Sullivan has found after speaking to many in the sector that nurseries are being downgraded by Quality Assurance, which monitors standards and quality performance, without even visiting the nursery. She said: “The whole mess with the inspections and nurseries being downgraded by Quality Assurance is undermining the credibility of Ofsted. Parents are even losing faith in Ofsted and are saying they are not going to take any notice of Ofsted ratings anymore. Nurseries are saying they have been visited by inspectors who have said they are excellent and then the report gets passed to Quality Assurance who downgrades it without even visiting the setting.
“Why are they even bothering to send the inspectors out, why not just send out Quality Assurance. Quality Assurance is acting like Big Brother and just doing what it wants. This way of working means Ofsted is losing inspectors like there is no tomorrow and out of all the appeals only a tiny proportion have been upheld.”
Ms O’Sullivan added: “We are hoping that as a result of the weekend, Ofsted will agree to talk to us and listen to our views. We hope that they will realise that ignoring us is not helping anyone.”
There has been mounting concerns for some time over the way Ofsted is inspecting nurseries with the Pre-School Learning Alliance submitting a Freedom of Information (FoI) request asking for details of the frequency of inspection downgrades.
The Freedom of Information (FoI) request was submitted in August due to nursery providers questioning 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 provider's 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.
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), also met with Ofsted director, Sue Gregory, in August after members of the organisation raised concerns about inconsistent and complaint-driven inspections.
The ‘Ofsted Big Conversation’ is being held at different locations across England and everyone working in childcare is urged to get involved. More information about it can be found at www.thebigofstedconversation.co.uk
The locations include London, Manchester, Oxford, Leeds, Worcester, Devon, Northampton and Durham.