Ofsted reconsiders bringing early years inspections in-house

By Joe Lepper

| 18 August 2015

Ofsted is reconsidering bringing early years sector inspections in-house, amid ongoing concerns in the sector around consistency and quality, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said a decision on the future of early years inspections will be made soon. Picture: Ofsted

In a letter to early years providers, Wilshaw said the decision earlier this year not to bring early years inspections in-house “created a degree of uncertainty in the sector”.

Instead, Ofsted chose to extend existing contracts with third-party providers Tribal Group, Prospects Services and Serco Education, by a period of 18 months.

But Wilshaw said inspections could still be brought in-house.

“I continue to have discussions about early years inspections and hope to make a decision soon,” he wrote.

Last year, Ofsted decided to bring school and further education inspections in-house from September 2015, which led to accusations that the inspectorate was treating early years providers as “second-class services”.

But, in his letter to providers, Wilshaw said that to align bringing early years inspections in-house at the same time “would have made the project unmanageable”.

He said that, in the meantime, he has made some changes to strengthen quality assurance arrangements.

“I am also deploying inspectors to provide training for all inspectors, including for the inspection service providers, in order to ensure that my expectations about quality of inspection practice are clear.

“This includes the current training programme for all inspectors on the new common inspection framework.”

Wilshaw’s letter to early years providers comes in advance of a raft of changes to the way early years services are inspected being introduced next month.

Under the new common inspection framework, private, voluntary and independent (PVI) childcare providers will be given notice of half a day when an inspection of one of their settings is to take place – previously, they received no notice.

There will also be three new judgments: teaching, learning and development; outcomes for children; and personal development, behaviour and welfare, which will all sit alongside the existing leadership and management judgment.

“The common inspection framework emphasises the impact of leaders’ work in developing and sustaining an ambitious culture and vision in their setting,” Wilshaw said in the letter.

“Inspectors will also look at leaders’ work to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and they will continue to place the effectiveness of safeguarding at the heart of every inspection.

“When considering children’s outcomes, inspectors will want to see that the children currently at the setting are making good progress.”

Wilshaw also wrote about efforts to improve the way the complaints process is scrutinised.

From September “high-level scrutiny committees” will be set up in each Ofsted region.

These will involve early years sector leaders and senior inspectors and will rule on how the inspectorate handles complaints. Their decision will be binding on Ofsted, Wilshaw added.

He added that the new inspection framework will have a greater focus on leadership skills.

“Exceptional leaders”, who have a strong track record of “transforming the life chances of youngsters” across a number of settings “particularly in the most challenging areas” will be given greater recognition.

Those identified will be sent a letter by Ofsted, that will also be sent to the secretary of state for education, acknowledging their “exceptional leadership”. They will also be named in Ofsted’s annual report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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