A new inspection approach

Gill JoGill Jones, Ofstednes, early education deputy director at Ofsted, shares some updates on the new Education Inspection Framework, coming into place in September. This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Under 5 magazine.
Last month, we launched our new inspection framework, which sets out how we will inspect nurseries, pre-schools, forest schools, childminders and indeed all forms of early years provision, across England, from September 2019. 
This announcement followed an extensive consultation, which received more than 15,000 responses. I am genuinely heartened that so many people who work with young children took the time to read the consultation and inspection handbook and offer us their views. Even the less positive responses were very welcome and helpful. They provoked much thought and discussion at Clive House! Overall, the feedback was very positive. More than 80 per cent of people said that our proposed framework was clear and easy to understand.
Breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs
There was strong support for applying our new framework to all early years provision. But much of the feedback raised concerns about inspectors judging the ‘quality of education’ in breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs. We have taken this feedback in to account and decided that this judgement will not apply to those settings, since they do not have to meet the learning and development requirements in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
Less data, more EYFS
The new framework is placing much less emphasis on data and paperwork, and a greater focus on what providers offer through their EYFS curriculum. I hope this will have a big and positive impact in the early years – we want you to spend your time teaching and making a real difference to what children learn and do, which is, after all, why you have devoted your professional lives to developing young children.
So, what do you need to know when our inspectors come knocking on your door this autumn? Well, to pick out just a few key highlights:
  • Inspectors will consider how well an early years setting uses the EYFS curriculum to enhance the experience and opportunities available to children, so that they gain the essential knowledge that they need to prepare for future success. We call this ‘cultural capital’.
  • Inspectors will not advocate a particular way of planning, teaching or assessment, and they will not expect to see any documents other than those listed in the EYFS.
  • We recognise that the early years sector is very diverse. Inspectors will use their professional judgement to assess how well the leadership is making a difference and improving the quality of the provision for the children.
We have stressed from the beginning that our reforms are more of an evolution than a revolution. So you will not see a massive change in our approach to inspecting from Monday 2 September.
Pilot inspections
We have been doing pilot inspections, which have highlighted more similarities than differences with the current way we inspect. For instance, when preparing for a pilot in the east midlands, our inspector researched previous visits, the recommendations we had made for improvement, the provider’s regulatory history, and indeed all the information we held about that setting – just as we do now. Then the inspector let the manager steer the inspection towards specific activities - to allow them to showcase the good work they were doing.
Our inspector placed a greater emphasis on a learning walk at the beginning of the inspection, when the manager introduced the inspector to their provision. This allowed the manager to explain how they organise the provision and decide what the children in their setting needed to learn. Our inspector met some delightful children, who were able to use quite technical vocabulary when speaking about a variety of herbs. They were confident and articulate for their age.
I think it’s fair to say that the manager enjoyed talking openly to an inspector about their work. It was the opposite of an intense management meeting where data dominates the discussion. 
This, and other, pilot inspections have shown that the framework works for nurseries and childminders. Inspectors can find out what it is like to attend an early years provision without the need to look at data and lots of paperwork. 
Handbooks and guides
If I can sound a warning note, I know from experience that the publication of new handbooks leads to a deluge of emails from consultants, offering to tell you how to prepare for an Ofsted inspection if you’ll give them some cash. This is not necessary at all – you should not do anything specifically for an Ofsted inspection. Anything that you do should be for the young children themselves. And similarly, don’t feel obliged to spend several hundred pounds on training or buying in a consultant when our website has all kinds of information about what we do.
The EYFS is still the EYFS and although our inspection framework has changed, what you need to do to help children to learn and enjoy their early years experience remains the same.
Between now and September, we will be attending conferences and events, including the Ofsted Big Conversation, to talk about what the new inspection framework will mean for you. Watch this space!
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