Ofsted and the new Education Inspection Framework

Smartpractice was at Childcare Expo in Manchester on June 14th and Elaine White, Senior Inspector of Early Years in the North West region, gave a seminar on the new inspection framework that will start this September.

The reason Ofsted give for the changes to the inspection framework are to ensure Ofsted is ‘a force for improvement and that the curriculum will be at the heart of every inspection with the aim of ensuring that all children have access to high quality education’. If you’re not already aware, the new ‘Education Inspection Framework’ is now published on the Ofsted site alongside a new ‘Early years inspection handbook for Ofsted registered provision’ dated May 2019.

Behaviour and attitudes

The main change to the framework is that in place of the section ‘Personal development, behaviour and welfare’ there will be two new sections which are entitled ‘Behaviour and Attitudes’ and ‘Personal Development’. We were assured that ‘welfare’ will still be taken into consideration during the inspection but will not be named in any specific section and instead will be considered whenever relevant throughout the inspection. The new inspection handbook says “Inspectors will always have regard to how well children are helped and protected so that they are kept safe. Although inspectors will not provide a separate grade for this crucial aspect of a provider’s work, they will always make a written judgement in the report about whether the arrangements for safeguarding children are effective.”

What is clear, is that more focus will be placed on behaviour and attitudes and that since there are now 2 sections in place of the previous 1 section ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ that these areas will have more weighting and therefore a greater impact on a settings’ Ofsted outcome.

Feedback notes will be consistent with the evidence discussed with the provider and the content of the report should cover the strengths and areas for improvement in the following sections:

  • overall effectiveness
  • quality of education
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • personal development
  • leadership and management
  • actions and/or recommendations for improvement.

Elaine was quick to reassure that for those settings working in deprived areas and in challenging circumstances, that they would not be judged on the child’s behaviour but on the way that the setting manages individual children who display challenging behaviour.

New emphasis on the curriculum

The new emphasis on ‘curriculum’ means that the way the inspection will be conducted will change so that more time is spent in children’s rooms and therefore less time will likely be spent interviewing the manager away from the children. The inspection will start with a ‘Learning Walk’ where the inspector and manager will tour the setting. Elaine explained that the inspector would want to explore what the curriculum is like, ‘what you do, what the purpose is of what you do and any evidence around attainment.’ There will be a joint observation conducted and the inspector will want to track the experiences of children and understand what it is to be a child in the setting. As mentioned, there will still be a strong interest in SEN, EAL and other elements of welfare but this will be explored on the ‘Learning Walk’ for example by looking at evidence of how children who may not be achieving their expected outcomes are being supported. There will then be discussion about ‘Leadership and Management’ but it is expected much information on this will already have been gained throughout the learning walk and observation.

After school and holiday provision

A big change here is that there will no longer be a judgment made about the ‘quality of education’ for after school and holiday provision since Ofsted accept that a child’s main education will take place elsewhere and that it is not therefore relevant to judge this provision regarding the quality of education. The feedback to Ofsted during the consultation process had been that this provision needed to much more informal, providing a place for children to relax and play rather than be constrained by educational expectations.

Quotes from the consultation:

“Before and after school services provide safe spaces for children to socialise, play and have fun. Whilst we do educate children through play and discussion, we are not an education service.”

“After school settings should be a break for children. Children should be able to relax and play games”.

This change to after school inspections will likely be a relief to all!

Cultural Capital

This was introduced and frankly was very poorly explained but from what was gathered, this relates to ensuring children have access to many and varied experiences which will support them in life. The setting should provide activities and experiences that are stimulating and exciting so that they foster a love of learning and which are delivered through the seven areas of learning.

The slide read:

  • Cultural capital is the essential knowledge that children need to be able to be educated citizens (school)
  • Cultural capital is the essential knowledge that children need to prepare them for future success (early years)
  • Some children arrive at an early years setting with different experiences from others, in their learning and play
  • What a setting does through its curriculum and interactions, potentially makes all the difference
  • It is the role of the setting to ensure that children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the seven areas of learning

So once again we are all preparing for change but this time with less emphasis on paperwork (although it is doubtless still relevant to record information relating to areas such as planning and progress) and more emphasis on the curriculum and what children actually do and experience. This does sound a sensible way forward, as long as standards of safety and education are maintained, or even better improved. Good luck!