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Ofsted under pressure to justify inspection results

Article By: Richard Howard, News Editor

Learning that more day nurseries have had their ratings downgraded has led to the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) questioning the methods of regulator Ofsted.

The NDNA has doubts that Ofsted is currently inspecting the early years sector at a consistent enough rate to draw such conclusions and is today meeting with early childhood director, Sue Gregory, to discuss concerns.

Prior to the meeting, chief executive Purnima Tanuku commented: “Figures released by Ofsted on the significant number of nurseries receiving downgraded inspection judgements following complaints indicate a worrying trend and reflect the large number of concerns NDNA has received from nurseries over unfair inspections.

“These figures will concern nurseries already worried about the quality and consistency of inspections.

“Providers' concerns are exacerbated by a lack of clarity in the new inspection guidance published by Ofsted last week: Conducting early years inspections and the Evaluation schedule for inspections of registered early years provision. Providers need to understand how they are being judged.

“The rapid increase in the number of inspections being made following complaints is also a cause for concern. Ofsted and their inspection service providers will need to manage this workload and the potential for impact on the routine inspection schedule.

“This is a huge concern for nurseries’ business sustainability and a threat to the two year old offer.”

Pre-school Learning Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch also raises concerns, saying: “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 on 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.”

He concluded: “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.”


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Annie Lou

11 Oct 2013 4:57 PM

I am a Childminder working with two assistants. I was recently downgraded from 'Outstanding' to 'Satisfactory' in a concern triggered inspection. The concern was not-upheld. During the inspection I was in the kitchen with the Ofsted officer going through my paperwork leaving my two members of staff looking after 7 children, several under 2 and 6 under 3. One of the staff then had to prepare for lunch. Obviously, when the Ofsted officer went to observe them, they didn't appear organised. What happened when the Ofsted officer observed NEVER happens normally. Because, unlike in a nursery setting, the 'manager' ie. Childminder is still in ratio and is needed to look after the children and lead. I complained about various comments about the report which was inaccurate (the Ofsted Officer claimed not to hear things that were said) but the complaints were not considered valid. Also, in the report it said that in a 'float and sink' activity that the terms 'full, half-full and empty' were used. They were not used. I talked about objects with a lot of air in tend to float, like the piece of wood, for example. When I complained, I was told that these were the only terms expected to be used in the Early Years Foundation stage. I was talking to a child who was about to go to school and has a high level of knowledge and understanding. As a consequence of the downgrading I was no longer able to have two 2 year olds come to my setting who I had supported through difficult family circumstances. The parents who come to my setting formed a petition which they all signed and wrote impassioned letters to Ofsted. Ofsted showed no interest, except to say that the report was written from what the officer witnessed on the day.