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Neil Leitch, chief executive of Pre-school Learning Alliance
Kathy Brodie, early years trainer and Early Childhood Studies lecturer at Stockport College
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“At the start of September Ofsted announced some changes to how it inspects day nurseries and pre-schools, including giving them a judgement on how well their provision meets the needs of the range of children who attend.
But the childcare inspectorate did not include any changes to the re-inspection of settings previously judged to be Satisfactory.
The Alliance is renewing its call for Ofsted to allow the re-inspection such settings after six months (should the setting desire and be prepared to pay the cost of re-inspection) so that it can demonstrate that it has implemented changes recommended in the most recent inspection report.
It is grossly unfair that settings labelled Satisfactory that have taken appropriate action to improve the quality of their provision have to wait up to four years for the next inspection, particularly as this may mean they no longer have access to free early years entitlement funding until they achieve a Good or Outstanding rating.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted chief inspector, has stated in respect of schools that “satisfactory is no longer good enough”. That is now being intepreted in the same way throughout the early years sector, which is why it is critical that we provide a mechanism to enable settings to move on.
With the introduction of the free entitlement for 260,000 two-year-old children by September 2014, the Department for Education estimates that there is a substantial shortfall in places. It seems unbelievable that we are not doing more to support those providers that demonstrate a desire to improve by providing them with the opportunity to be re-inspected and gain access to funding.
Expecting a setting to retain Satisfactory status for up to four years is absurd. If your car fails an MOT test you are not expected to wait a year before it can be inspected again. You anticipate that it is improved and then re-inspected.
Re-inspecting a setting at the earliest opportunity is a win-win for the sector but most of all children. As such, Ofsted should make it a priority.”
“It can be devastating to a staff team when their Ofsted inspection rating is not as high as expected. It means that, for the next three years, or possibly more, that the nursery may be deemed to ‘require improvements’ (from January 2013) and to potential parents wishing to join – it is not the best advertising!
It can also have other implications, such as access to funding and the ability to offer training to students.
However, I’m not convinced that paying for re-inspection is the logical response to this.
I feel the danger will be that larger, more financially secure settings will be able to use the first inspection as ‘guidelines’ for improvement and simply keep paying until they reach outstanding. Those settings who can’t afford to pay will be stuck at ‘requires improvement’ purely due to lack of funds.
This will produce a two-tier system. The richer nurseries will have better Ofsted ratings, attracting more parents, better staff retention and funding opportunities, and are thus able to keep paying to get better ratings, in an ever upward spiral.
Those less able to pay will be on the opposite, downward spiral, fighting against the negative connotations associated with ‘requires improvements’.
It feels grossly unfair in the current economic climate to have to depend on a good bank balance in order to argue the case for a good Ofsted rating.
Perhaps a re-inspection could be triggered for minor infringements, whereas major issues would need to be addressed before any re-inspection could be called, paid for or otherwise.
Surely there must be a fairer system that enables nurseries of all sizes to request another inspection, without having to choose between paying for an inspection or investing in resources/staff for the children’s benefit?”
Visit www.kathybrodie.com for more information on her training courses, articles and books.