Ofsted considers merging early years, schools and FE inspections

By Laura McCardle

| 04 August 2014

Ofsted is looking at plans to merge its early years, schools and further education inspections under a single framework.

Ofsted is due to consult on plans to create a single education inspections framework. Image: Phil Adams

The inspectorate has confirmed its intention to change the way education institutions are inspected from September 2015.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director of schools policy and regional director for East of England, unveiled the plan on social network site Twitter on Friday.

He said that Michael Cladingbowl, national director of inspection reform, is leading work to “harmonise” Ofsted’s education inspections under a single framework ready for September 2015.

Harford added that a consultation on the plans is due to start “very soon”.

Ofsted has confirmed the plan but declined to comment any further.

The announcement comes two months after Ofsted unveiled plans to bring the management of all school and further education inspections back in-house.

In May, the inspectorate said it will not renew contracts with CfBT Education Trust, Serco Education and Tribal Group for the inspection of schools and FE institutions when they expire in August 2015.

At the time, Ofsted had also been expected to announce plans to bring the management of childcare settings back in-house but instead said “existing contractual arrangements” for the early years would continue, prompting a backlash from childcare leaders who accused the inspectorate of treating early years as a “second-class service”.

In June, however, Nick Hudson, the inspectorate’s director for early years, revealed Ofsted’s intention to reform the way early years settings are inspected but was unable to give any detail on what the changes would entail.

The early years contracts, with Tribal Group, Prospects Services and Serco Education, are also due to expire in September 2015.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, was one of those who expressed their concerns at Ofsted's failure to bring the management of early years inspections back in-house.

He said: “There appears to be a lack of clarity about Ofsted’s plans to create a single integrated framework for education and childcare, particularly when Ofsted has confirmed that criteria between school-based early years inspections will differ from those in the private, voluntary and independent sector.

“While it is encouraging that the sector will have an opportunity to feedback on the draft plan, the longer term plan will be contradicted unless there is some consistency in the development of the criteria.

“Ofsted and the Department for Education should use the same judgment criteria to ensure that the inspection process used across different provision can be compared fairly and accurately.”

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