If you’re working in a childcare provision – whether as a childminder or in a large chain nursery – the chances are that your working week is a full one; that you don’t need more work to do.
So a call from Ofsted, informing you that we are coming in the following day to inspect, does add to your workload. As a former primary school teacher and headteacher, I can fully appreciate what it’s like to be inspected.
The good news is that we do not want you to do anything to prepare for an inspection. That is the case now, and Ofsted will reinforce that approach in three months’ time, when the education inspection framework (EIF) takes effect. The phrase, “but we must do this for Ofsted”, should be banished from your management meeting.
There is a shift in focus with this new framework; but it will not be a revolution in the way we assess the quality of childcare provisions. Early years settings must still follow the EYFS. However, Ofsted is moving away from looking at internal data and spreadsheets towards a more thorough look at the curriculum – what is taught, which is, after all, the substance of education. Put simply, our inspectors will spend more time talking to you about why you’ve chosen the resources and activities you introduce and less time talking about your internal assessments and data.
We received strong support for this approach when we consulted on the education inspection framework. It’s inevitable that, when we undertake such an exercise, expensive conferences and training sessions are promoted – they tell you how to prepare for our visit. The good news is that such conferences and sessions are not necessary.
Instead, focus on what you do best: helping young children to learn. Whether this is by telling them stories, singing songs, taking them out in the local park or just arranging a stimulating day that develops their physical abilities and skills. We will simply want to see what it’s like to be a child in your setting.
If you are doing something because you think we want to see it and it does not benefit the children, then please do not do it. We want you to focus your efforts on doing the right thing for the children you look after. I know that our visit can be stressful, but I hope that our new framework will, from September onwards, encourage the feeling that inspection is something done ‘with you’, rather than ‘to you’.