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England’s education regulator, Ofsted, has announced details of a new ‘Common Inspection Framework’ that all early years settings will be subject to, as well as schools and academies.
The Framework will target making childcare performance more transparent and therefore more comparable, with handbooks due to be published in the summer-term that will inform providers of what they can expect.
Ofsted has said it will move towards aligning the notice of inspection it gives to schools with the early years. Schools currently get half a day's notice, whereas nurseries get no notice at all.
National director of schools, Sean Harford, said: “Our Common Inspection Framework will ensure a consistent approach to Ofsted inspections. It will focus on keeping young people safe, the breadth of the curriculum in schools, the relevance of courses and training in further education and skills, and the quality of early learning.”
On fulfilling the regulator’s overall inspection reform, he added: “We are determined to recruit and retain inspectors of the highest calibre to carry out inspections using the new framework. We have tightened up our selection criteria and quality assurance procedures. All contracted Ofsted Inspectors will have to go through a stringent assessment process and assessed training, with clear performance measures in place.
“We believe that these changes to our inspection methods and the inspection workforce will drive even greater consistency and quality in our inspections – and ultimately raise standards in education across England.”
Pre-school Learning Alliance chief executive, Neil Leitch, welcomed the announcement of a new common inspection framework and said he hoped that “this change will lead to a fairer and more consistent approach to inspections across the education system.
“For the new approach to be successful, however, it is vital that inspectors avoid adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and ensure that all inspections are tailored to the relevant provision types. Inspection criteria such as ‘quality of assessments’ and ‘outcomes for children’, for instance, will mean something very different in an early years context compared to that of a school or college, and it’s vital that this is taken into account in inspection judgements.
“It’s therefore crucial that all inspectors operating under the new framework are appropriately trained and are experts in their respective fields. The early years sector has long raised concerns about the quality of inspections, and as such, we welcome the news of more stringent assessment and quality assurance processes for contracted inspectors. This is an important – and much-needed – first step in improving the fairness and consistent of early years inspections.”
Claire Schofield, director of membership, policy and communications at NDNA, also welcomed the announcement of the new framework, saying: “We have been calling for a level playing field with schools on notice for private and voluntary sector nurseries for several years, so we welcome Ofsted’s commitment that it will align notice.
“The private, voluntary and independent early years sector will now be keen to see prompt action by Ofsted to make equal notice for all a reality.”