I was fortunate to attend the launch of the NEW Education Inspection Framework the EIF. I attended in my capacity as Chair of Trustees and as an Independent Early Years Consultant and Trainer.

If you refer to the Ofsted website you will find a Press Release with all the information – just click on the links.
The consultation on the EIF is open now and all remits have until the 5th April to respond.

It is clear that Ofsted have spent a great deal of time researching, listening and consulting, which is good. It is not just Early Years where there will be changes but schools and colleges too. Never before has Ofsted sought to engage with all the different remits through consulting and reviewing their new documentation, this of course is very much appreciated.

So we must respond! Childminders, small providers and large groups, you do have a voice and the sector needs you!
Here are my own personal thoughts and I’ll leave you to interpret the information for yourself.

Ofsted are clear that the curriculum will be at the heart of the new framework, with a greater emphasis on the holistic quality of education and care of children that you provide. No mention of babies in any of the slides or discussions, apart from a reference to 0-5 years.

A big and welcome change that’s coming is the aim to reduce workload!

Whilst we know that accountability is important, we must recognise when this diverts senior teams and individuals from interacting with children, coaching staff and listening to parents. We all agree that for too long children have come second to the burden of unnecessary paperwork and this impacts on workload. Paper based work and an industry that has arisen to save on paperwork – online journals, have, in fact, all taken staff teams away from babies and children. A reduced focus on data gathering therefore is very welcomed. This is why the ‘Outcomes’ judgment has gone.

My own concern for a long time has been Early Years practitioners being ‘deskilled’ in reflecting on observations, identifying interests and deciding on next steps. Staff teams need to deepen their understanding of child development, it is not a ‘linear’ process and children never do what it says on the planning let alone the ‘next steps’! We need to get accountability back into the room and not on a spreadsheet. Mentoring and coaching your staff team, providing high quality continued professional development and creating a culture of critical reflection is key.

Bring back the here and now, scaffold learning through teachable moments and build on your skills in sustained shared thinking and interacting with children.

The evidence that Ofsted will see is in the wellbeing and involvement of the children, in their conversations with peers and adults and in their ability to learn and develop using the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning.

Gathering data and assessment through far too many summative observations will take time to ‘unlearn’ however, providers need to be confident in their practitioners and their ability to deepen learning in all areas of the curriculum.

Maybe we should shift the focus on intently observing children to giving more time to peer observations for staff, for it is them that are key to ensuring they make a difference to children’s experiences and ultimately outcomes?

It is good to see that the curriculum and how it is taught will be central to the care and education of children.

The Ofsted definition of teaching will stay, along with an overall effectiveness judgment, the 4 point grading system (outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate) and of course inspection will stay in line with the principles and statutory requirements of the EYFS. With a move away from ‘outcomes’ and a move towards the ‘intent’, ‘implementation’ and ‘impact’ through a new ‘quality of education’ judgment.

Leadership and Management is of course key to any setting. Developing an ethos, focusing on staff development, considering staff workloads and wellbeing and continuing the emphasis on safeguarding all given priority.

The Pre School Learning Alliance’s (now the Early Years Alliance) report ‘Minds Matter’ clearly given more than a thought, if you haven’t read this I certainly suggest you do. A focus on the ‘integrity’ of ensuring children with SEND have access to their full entitlement was highlighted. This is an area we need to continually focus on.

Personally I think there are many factors to consider here … local information and support, knowledge and experience and recruiting and managing staffing are all contentious issues. The balance and the difference between safeguarding children and providing opportunities for children to experience and manage risk and challenge was welcomed.

No written plans for the curriculum are required and there is no Ofsted curriculum. It is for you to decide your ‘pedagogy’ – what you teach (the areas of learning), how you teach (your skills, focus, environment) and most importantly how you connect with babies and young children.

Look out for ‘Curriculum Roadshows’ across the country. I do think that in putting out lots of new information and seeking constructive feedback will help the sector. Whether it will provide ‘certainty, reassurance and transparency’ only time will tell.

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Early years inspection handbook (EIF)
Ofsted have released their NEW guidance on inspecting registered early years and childcare providers under the education inspection framework, for use from September 2019. You can take a look here.

Alison Featherbe
Orange Caterpillar