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Consultation launch for draft inspection framework


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The presentation was led by Chris Russell, the SE Regional director, Sue Mann , the Senior HMI for the region and Wendy Ratcliffe from the National policy team. The aim of the session was to introduce the key aspects of the proposed new framework and discuss in detail how the proposals affect the early years sector.
The draft Education Inspection Framework document relates to Ofsted’s full education remit: from early years to further education and skills provision (and everything else in between). Obviously different aspects are more / less relevant to different parts of the sector and the separate presentations to sector groups (following HMCI Amanda Spielman’s national launch of the whole framework) sought to address these known differences.
The overarching feeling in the room was one of openness and commitment to working together. I have read some cynical posts on social media suggesting that this willingness to consult and share is not all it seems and that minds are already made up – however, in the spirit of optimism, I didn’t feel that this was the case.
We were told that the consultation period (ending 5th April 2019) was genuinely planned engagement and that although there had been informal conversations with the sector about emerging thoughts and themes Ofsted needed to hear feedback on their draft documents as it is ‘by no means finished’ and they are keen to hear ideas and views.
We were reminded that Ofsted’s mission is to be “A force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation”. To this end there has been a lengthy research process behind the new framework and the research is openly published alongside the draft documents.
The headline note that Ofsted sought to ‘do away with data’ was the first issue tackled. Both Sue Mann and Wendy Ratcliffe referred often to the industry that has evolved around assessment. They stressed the importance of knowing the children – where they came from, and where they are going as being paramount. The focus on the child is evident throughout the proposed framework – staff must not be so overwhelmed with data collection that it takes them away from the children. The message was clear: data should help children learn, not detract from it. It is therefore important that we think about how staff are using the data – are they collecting it for their own benefit (to confirm their professional understanding?) or are they collecting it to show someone else? If staff need data to help them see patterns of progress that is different to producing data to evidence ‘how hard they work’. 
The primary aim of the new framework, we were told, is to look at the quality of the education children are receiving. For those of us who have been doing this a while it felt very much like the ‘What is it like to be a child in this place?’ message of a few years back. Whilst discussing the inspection of education ‘Quality’ we were reassured that we should not view the new framework as a time for ‘panic stations’ the EYFS remains our statutory document. We were told that although there were new ELGs being piloted by the DfE, until the EYFS was reviewed as a result of these pilots then Ofsted would be inspecting as per the EYFS as it stands, there is no new agenda.
Having laid the foundations for our discussion we were given the following to think about: Ofsted will be looking at what is being taught and how it is being taught. Ofsted will be keeping the definition of teaching [Ofsted. 2015. P35, footnote 14] that we have now as the sector has found it a useful tool to work with. However, a noticeable change is the recognition that a single early years setting can only do so much for a child. There is recognition that children might attend several settings, or just one. They might attend for many sessions, or very few. They might have proactive parents who enrich their lives, or they may not. The message from Ofsted is that they will be looking to see how well do settings know their children? How well do they know and understand their individual circumstances? How well do they know and understand their starting points and consequently what are they teaching? Why are they teaching what they are? And how is what they teach going to make a difference to the child? Again, we were reminded that the curriculum (what you are teaching, why you are teaching it, and how you are teaching it) needs to be ambitious. It is the curriculum itself that is important, not the data. In the context of being a single setting with the child, this emphasis shift away from the data means that settings can’t take the benefit (or feel the consequences) of the other experiences (educational or domestic) that child might have. There was a clear emphasis on the importance of a strong curriculum for all SEND children, children who are disadvantaged and the most able children.
The practicalities of the inspection remain the same. The ‘Overall Effectiveness judgement’ remains with the 4 point grading scale applied according to the standards of the EYFS. Overall, we should consider the child:

“Is how I am a result of what I am receiving here?”

The following is are explanatory diagrams from the *presentation slides (which will be freely available on the Ofsted website following all the consultation ‘launch’ events). These clipped slides have been taken from here.

Fig 1.png
         The 4 proposed inspection judgements

Fig 2.png

           The 4 proposed inspection judgements relating to the current judgements
The existence of a ‘Behaviour and attitudes’ judgement raised eyebrows in the room and required further discussion. It was made clear to us that Ofsted were not expecting to see developmentally inappropriate behaviour – the example of 2-year olds sharing toys being a case in point. We were clearly told that Ofsted would be looking to see what settings are doing to support and develop self-regulatory skills. Similarly, the example of some children with SEND not being able to control emotional outbursts was discussed in terms of Ofsted wanting to see how settings were managing behaviour, providing a consistent and shared support for children’s individual needs. The Characteristics of Effective Learning would also be significant in the new Inspection Framework as inspectors will want to see how children’s behaviours, attitudes and motivations for learning were being supported and developed in the setting. 
In the ‘Personal development’ judgement, we were reminded that Ofsted were looking at the child in the setting – not the child when they were away from the setting – in my notes I have written ‘what impact are Providers having on children? – Ofsted are not assessing impact if it is not happening at the setting’. 
There will be a raised profile for staff CPD and the impact it has on practice in the new Leadership and Management judgement. The recent Pre-school Learning Alliance report ‘Minds Matter’ has contributed to the concern we all have for staff well-being. This concern will be part of the new inspection framework, staff will be asked about their workload and how they feel supported in the setting. The question of ‘off-rolling’ was also discussed here; off-rolling is not something that particularly happens in early years settings – however it remains part of the inspection for ey registered providers. We discussed what this meant and were told that inspectors will be considering whether children are all able to access the care and education to which they are entitled – and in early years this is likely to mean is funding (such as EYPP) applied for and utilised to the child’s best advantage? Is external support and advice sought and actioned at the earliest possible opportunity to enable children to achieve their best outcome?
Safeguarding remains of highest priority in the inspection framework. Leaders and managers will be judged according to the settings ability to identify issues promptly following appropriate training, they will be judged on their ability to act, report and source help and on their ability to manage their statutory responsibilities. Safeguarding will still be judged as either effective or not effective. We were reminded too that safeguarding is not health and safety – they are different. We were reminded that children must take risks and must learn how to manage those risks for themselves appropriately. Gill Jones HMI wrote for FSF last year about the importance of risk in early years making it clear that risk, and the management of it, was a crucial skill for children to learn.
A new phrase ‘Cultural Capital’ was introduced to the inspection vocabulary. A phrase from the world of sociology, it refers to the essential knowledge and dispositions that all children, regardless of their background, need to progress in our modern world. It considers the opportunities that some children have by virtue of their background (access to books, conversation, music and out of home ‘experiences’ like museums, parks etc) and asks that the early years settings acknowledge the differences and seek to provide in-setting enrichment to help build the Cultural Capital for these children.
Throughout the presentation we were tasked with answering various polled questions and we were encouraged to ask questions throughout. As I said at the beginning, there was a definite sense of working together to get the framework right. Some of the questions raised by the room were as follows:

  • How would the inspectors be trained? And how would the Ofsted regional hubs ensure that inspectors follow the new framework and don’t have their own personal agendas and preferences?

All the inspectors will be fully trained on the new framework – they will not be able to inspect until they have completed full training. All hubs will work to ensure that inspectors work objectively and only according to the new framework. The SE team were very keen to impress on us that they would make this point extremely clearly to their inspectors.

  • How will Providers find out about the new framework and the inspection changes?                            

The team said that there would be curriculum roadshows aimed at Providers and Local Authorities

  • The use of the word ‘Curriculum’ suggests something other than the EYFS?

No, the curriculum is not prescribed, and the definitions of teaching remains. There is no expectation of written plans. Children learn by making connections – linking together ideas and thoughts – we should consider how children learn from the ways in which the setting is teaching them to make such connections. How do you decide what your children need to learn and why? How do you know where to start?

  • We were asked how confident we feel about talking to inspectors about how we plan for children’s learning – the group felt that although we, as owners and managers, felt confident, some staff might feel less so and it was of concern that if they were unable to get their knowledge of the children across (without relying on the data) our inspection outcome might be less favourable.

Ofsted agreed that this was problematic and promised to included training for inspectors that covered the sensitivities required when talking to different members of staff.

Practicalities of responding to the consultation

  • The consultation is open until 5th April
  • There is one consultation for the full education remit – some questions are general and apply to all sectors, others are early years specific.

The link for the consultation is here

(Rebecca, from The Foundation Stage Forum, attended Ofsted’s ‘South East’ launch of the new Inspection Framework consultation)

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