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Ofsted recently introduced far-reaching changes to the way it inspects early years provision as a result of the ‘Better inspection for all’ consultation.
The structural changes to the Common Inspection Framework (CIF) were implemented on 1 September 2015 to align the inspection of early years with that of schools and further education establishments.
The framework has been designed to encompass the inspection of different early years settings to provide greater coherence across providers that cater for children of similar age ranges. The changes also ensure more comparability when children and learners move from one setting to another.
Nick Hudson, who recently stepped down as Ofsted’s national director for early years, said: “September has been a very exciting time for Ofsted as we introduced a Common Inspection Framework for all education remits.
“The framework will provide parents with the ability to compare judgements between different settings, which is the most important aspect of introducing this provision.
“It means that all education remits will be inspected against the same four key judgements and the same framework will apply to all early years registered provision, leading to more consistency.”
Outlining the key changes, Mr Hudson added: “A key change for early years is that we are moving away from the ‘meeting the needs judgement’ and are placing an emphasis on the ‘impact of leaders’ work in developing and sustaining an ambitious culture and vision in their setting.
“We will tailor the inspections to take into account that we are inspecting provision for young children and will also ensure that the inspectors have experience and understanding of early years.
“When we consulted on the new framework last year, around 80 per cent of the early years sector, including parents who responded, supported this approach.”
The reformed CIF was launched by Michael Wilshaw who claimed it to be a ‘new era for Ofsted inspection’, with the framework representing the ‘biggest changes to education inspection’ since the inception of the inspectorate more than two decades ago.
Although much of the framework remains the same, the key structural changes include:
• Shorter inspection periods for ‘Good’ providers
• Greater emphasis on the suitability of the curriculum
• Increased focus on the provision for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)
• Emphasis on arrangements for safeguarding and British values
In particular settings should be aware of the importance of safeguarding, how each child’s development is supported and the provision and range of activities readily available.
In practice, all early years settings will receive graded judgements against the same areas. These include:
• Effectiveness of leadership and management
• Quality of teaching, learning and assessment
• Personal development, behaviour and welfare
• Outcomes for children and learners
To make judgements about a provider’s overall effectiveness, inspectors still consider whether the standard of education, training and care is either ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’. If the setting has not been rated at least ‘Good’, inspectors will consider whether it ‘Requires improvement’ or is ‘Inadequate’.
The CIF framework states: “Inspection is primarily about evaluating how well individual children and learners benefit from the education provided by the setting. Inspections test the provider’s response to individual needs by observing how well it helps all children and learners to make progress and fulfil their potential.”
Welcoming the changes, Michael Freeston, director of Quality Improvement at the Pre-school Learning Alliance, added: “The changes to the Common Inspection Framework aligns inspections across all education remits. An Ofsted inspection should be an opportunity for providers to present settings at their best.
“There is still a four-point scale which lends itself to consistency and allows parents to compare settings more easily.”
Similarly, Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), also confirmed the changes. She said: “PACEY welcomes the new Common Inspection Framework as an opportunity to improve consistency across the inspection system. As our recent survey, Building Blocks, shows, there are significant concerns about consistency of inspections.
“We are keen therefore to ensure that this new framework offers a real chance to renew trust in the fairness and impartiality of the inspection process among early years providers.”
Ms Bayram continued: “PACEY has worked hard with Ofsted to ensure the new Common Inspection Framework recognises the unique early years environment in which our members operate, and we are encouraged to note that a number of our recommendations have been incorporated into the final guidance. We are particularly pleased to see that our recommendation for a focus on children’s well-being and happiness has been preserved as a key inspection criteria.
“However, we need to balance this with the reality that the new framework focuses on mainly educational outcomes. It will be dependent on inspectors recognising how a play-based approach, as championed by PACEY, can boost outcomes. It is therefore a disappointment that Ofsted early years inspections will not be brought in-house to embed this new ethos of consistency across the whole education system.”
Commenting further on the changes, Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) added: “We broadly welcome the new framework which will provide clarity on inspections to nurseries across the country.
“We have been campaigning for Ofsted to make the inspection process fairer for some years now. Education provision should be about teaching, learning and outcomes for children.”
NDNA are providing a range of training courses and resources to support early years providers. To find out more information about the events go to www.ndna.org.uk/member-events.
The early year’s inspection handbook describes the main activities inspectors undertake and the judgements inspectors will make when inspecting an early years provider. The handbook can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/compliance-investigation-and-enforcement-handbook-childcare#history.