Gill Jones: Ofsted’s new inspections – what did we learn from the pilots?


By Gill Jones, Ofsted Early Education Deputy Director


We are several weeks into the education inspection framework and you should, by now, be seeing the first new-style inspection reports.

I hope you agree with us that they are shorter, clearer and more to the point than before. That's for the benefit of parents as well as those of you who have devoted your lives to working in the early years.

Our new framework represents an evolution rather than a revolution in our approach to inspecting the early years.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) remains unchanged and we continue to inspect in line with its principles. Over time, I do hope that our new framework makes a positive difference to the way you go about your work by, for example, giving you more of a chance to actually talk about what you do when you go on the learning walk with one of my colleagues. Inspectors will want to find out how you decide what you do for your children.

The new framework is the most evidence-based in Ofsted’s history.

We received thousands of responses when we consulted on it at the beginning of this year and we took on board what you had to say. That is why we agreed that the quality of education judgement would not work for after-school clubs, because they do not have to meet the learning and development requirements.

Between the launch of this consultation and the framework taking effect, we carried out more than 100 pilot visits to different types of early years settings.

Less of a focus on written documentation

So, what did we learn from them?  

Nearly all of our inspectors found the learning walk to be an effective way of gathering evidence about how providers organise their early years provisions, in particular about their intent for the EYFS curriculum.

And most of our inspectors on the pilots found that they were able to gather enough evidence about assessment without having to focus on written documentation. I hope that means you feel less obliged to create reams of paperwork, and that, in turn, will allow you to spend more time with young children and less time using Excel.

Don't over think cultural capital

I know that there has been some discussion over the term ‘cultural capital’, which occupies a few paragraphs in our new handbook. But, as the Alliance’s Michael Freeston has helpfully made clear, ‘there is no need to over-think cultural capital – it is the exciting and stimulating activities that you do with children every day’.

For example, on one pilot inspection, our inspector visited a nursery that was in a densely populated area. There was not much outdoor space in which to play, and many of the young children didn't have gardens at home. So, the staff at this nursery created a herb garden and children took it in turns to look after it. The key here was context: the nursery staff saw a gap in the children’s lives and they helped to fill it in. 

So, cultural capital is simply about introducing young children to experiences that they may not get at home. And that can mean something quite different from one place to another.

We have produced this short film to explain what cultural capital means for EIF and early years.

Don't spend too much time and resource on preparing for our visit.

By all means have a look at our handbook.

But, if you’re time-poor like me, watch our short films on Ofsted’s YouTube channel or read articles such as this one.

If you have already been inspected under the new framework, then we would be keen to hear from you.

The Ofsted early years team will be taking part in a range of events between now and the end of the year – we would welcome your feedback about the inspection experience and our new reports. 

Further resources

Exploring the Education Inspection Framework: A guide to achieving a successful Ofsted grade

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