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Ofsted inspectors will have to ‘look at any concerns that have arisen’ and take into account a nursery’s history, when carrying out inspections under the new framework.
Updated versions of ‘Conducting early years inspections’ and the ‘Evaluation schedule for inspections of registered early years provision’, published last week, will come into force on 4 November 2013.
The ‘Evaluation schedule for inspections of registered early years provision’ states that inspectors ‘must consider the previous history, present state and future plans of a setting when coming to their overall judgement’.
‘Conducting early years inspections’ states ‘inspection is not just about what the inspector sees on the day; it is also about the inspector’s knowledge about this setting, including any concerns that have arisen and whether they still impact on the setting’s compliance with requirements, and the effectiveness of improvement plans over time’.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, has called on Ofsted to ensure that both providers and inspectors are clear on what this guidance means in practice.
He said: “The updated Ofsted guidance states that inspectors should take provider history into account when making an inspection judgement, but there’s no detail on what this really means. Many providers and crucially, some inspectors, are still unsure about when, and to what extent, a provider’s history can impact on an inspection decision.
“For example, in the case of a concern-triggered inspection, if the concern in question has been fully and effectively dealt with by the time of the inspection, and the on-site inspector feels that no further action needs to be taken, can the fact that the concern was raised in the first place still impact the inspection judgement?
“If this is the case – or alternatively, if providers mistakenly believe this to be the case – this may well deter settings from reporting concerns about their own provision, which could have serious safeguarding implications. Clearly this is not the direction the sector should be moving in.”
Mr Leitch continued: “At a time when the fairness of early years inspections is being called into question, it is more important than ever that Ofsted ensures that there is clarity and consistency throughout the whole inspection process.”
The Alliance is currently awaiting a response to the Freedom of Information request filed to Ofsted last month, which asks for the number of providers who have been downgraded following a complaint or concern-triggered inspection over the past year.