Last September, Ofsted launched their new Early Years Inspection Framework, following much consultation and discussion with the sector. Whilst the coronavirus pandemic has put inspections on hold until at least January 2021, it’s still important for early years settings to be aware of the changes and how they might affect their future inspection.
The new framework (which can be read here) brings some considerable changes, including changes to the wording of some criterion, an increased focus on behaviour and the learning walk, and a concerted effort to cut out unnecessary paperwork.
Putting all this into practice, of course, isn’t always so straightforward. That’s why we gathered some of Ofsted’s top Early Years experts for a Famly live session, where we dove deep into what you’ll need to know.
You’ll hear from Wendy Ratcliff, Phil Minns and Julian Grenier, the Development Matters 2020 author, as they get into the fine details of the new Ofsted inspection framework.
But to start, here are five key takeaways from the session.
Ofsted: The 5 key interview takeaways
Paperwork is no longer a focus during the inspection day. Inspectors are looking to focus more on a day in the life of a child at the setting, and how they are.
Ofsted deem direct observation and conversation with both staff and children to be the most effective way to assess child progress.
It’s helpful to think about the EYFS as the basis of curriculum, and then consider how it can then be built upon to ensure each child gets the support and attention they need.
Keeping inspections consistent will be vital, especially as Ofsted implements the new framework changes. The new framework comes along with quality assurance procedures and an accessible approach to collected findings, to keep everything transparent.
A tick-list approach might have helped inexperienced practitioners in the past, but Ofsted now want to move away from this. Instead, they are interested to see how providers support practitioners in developing their own judgement through CPD.
What do Ofsted expect in terms of evidence and tracking data?
Wendy explained that within the new EIF and all accompanying communication, Ofsted have worked hard to shift priorities away from paperwork. Inspectors won’t ask to see checklists, tracking and assessment data, and would rather just see a normal day in the setting. This clear change came about due to concerns around practitioner workload, as identified by research including the Early Years Alliance’s Minds Matters survey.
Phil drove home this point, saying that everything providers do should be for the children. There are no expectations around specific reporting or software — truly knowing the children and how you can help them develop is what matters most.
What expectations do Ofsted have around children’s progress?
In a busy Early Years setting, there still needs to be some way of keeping track of things. Wendy explains that when it comes to child progress, Ofsted inspectors are primarily looking at how settings create a record of children’s growth and development. According to Wendy, the best way to do this is via direct observation, and discussion with practitioners and the children themselves.
How do senior leadership teams avoid adding to the paperwork burden?
Phil thinks that a certain level of oversight and reporting will always be necessary, to reassure leadership teams that children are getting good care and are progressing well. At the same time, he hopes public perceptions change about what’s really needed, based on Ofsted’s publicly available handbook.
He also encourages Early Years teams to really think about what the benefit of the paperwork is, compared to the benefit of instead spending that time with children. Ultimately, inspectors want to have rich conversations with practitioners, and see their knowledge of individual children.
How are Ofsted ensuring all inspectors follow your lead?
As mentioned, all guidance is publicly available, which helps to set expectations for both the setting and also for inspectors during their training. Quality assurance procedures are also in place, which helps to ensure inspectors are consistent in their approach and reporting methods.
Will Ofsted inspectors focus more on curriculum in the early years?
When thinking about Intent, which is one of the ‘3 Is’ under the new Quality of Education criteria, Phil explains that Ofsted inspectors hope to see settings use curriculums that lay out clear paths for growth for their children. Something that’s too abstract or theoretical, he says, risks being hard to follow consistently.
Using the EYFS as the basis, settings can then build up their curriculum depending on their cohort to help each child get to where they need to go.
How can we make sure inexperienced practitioners are supported?
Both the new Development Matters and Early Years Inspection Framework have been praised for giving more agency and authority to individual practitioners. At the same time though, a more tick-list-style approach did help less-experienced practitioners learn how to chart and record child development.
Wendy says that the new framework looks at how a setting supports their newer staff’s CPD to ensure they acquire professional knowledge about where children should be, without needing to rely on an overly rigid approach. Providers should consider the systems they have in place, and how practitioners can best work with the children.
Watch the full hour-long session
If you’d like to see the full hour-long session, featuring Wendy Ratcliff and Phill Minns’ answers plus input from Julian Grenier on the new Development Matters, you’re in luck!
Just head over here, leave a few details, and you can watch the full session back on-demand, for free.
Official Danish Government Reopening Advice
Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.