Ofsted are bringing inspections in-house – what does it mean for providers? by Sarah Neville

31st January 2017

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ofsted-bringing-inspections-in-houseOfsted made an announcement recently which will possibly have a huge impact on the early years – but it’s mostly been buried under reports about the results of the 30 hours funding consultation, concerns about Children’s Centre closures and continued provider sustainability and other more pressing news.

Ofsted’s big announcement was that, from April 2017, all early years inspections will be brought ‘in house’ by Ofsted, which means that inspectors will work for and be directly managed and trained by Ofsted: Prospect and Tribal, who have been carrying out early years inspection for the last 5 or so years, will no longer be contracted by Ofsted.

The Ofsted Big Conversation national group, which gives a voice to providers across all types of early years provision, was initially started as a result of inconsistency during Prospect and Tribal inspections and the feeling within our North West group was one of cautious optimism when the announcement was made.
Gill Jones, Ofsted’s deputy director of early education, has blogged about the changes. She seeks to reassure providers that Ofsted will still use the Common Inspection Framework when carrying out inspections. Further information from Ofsted advises that inspectors with early years knowledge and experience will be used for early years inspections which should be reassuring for providers.

Indeed, Nick Jackson, Ofsted Director of Corporate Services, commented in a recent interview, ‘With our experience of bringing schools and further education inspections under our control, we are confident that we can manage this transition smoothly.’

Providers have commented for a while now that Ofsted refuse to answer questions like they used to when emailed or telephoned for advice. This is because, as Gill Jones clarifies, ‘Ofsted is an inspectorate and a regulator’ and not an advisor. Providers must make their own decisions about how to manage their businesses based on the statutory requirements in the (now very out-of-date) Early Years Foundation Stage and further statutory and guidance documents published by the Department for Education.

Ofsted bringing inspections in houseOfsted also seek to reassure providers that they will continue to listen to and respond to feedback through the National Consultative Forum meetings and events such as the Ofsted Big Conversation regional meetings through which provider feedback will be shared during the inspection transition period and beyond.

We met with some of the team who will be overseeing the transition from Prospect and Tribal to Ofsted in-house inspection recently during one of our Ofsted Big Conversation meetings at Ofsted’s head office in Manchester. They were keen to reassure the sector that they are planning for a seamless transition and advise that the focus on raising quality in the early years will continue.

This focus has clearly been successful to date as highlighted in the recent Ofsted Early Years Report (published 15th November 2016) which shows that, at a time of underfunding, concerns about the 30 hours, worries about childminder agencies and lack of support for early years providers across the entire sector, more providers than ever before are now graded good or outstanding.

We must be doing something right! The Ofsted Big Conversation steering groups will continue to monitor how inspections are carried out and take provider feedback to Ofsted during our meetings so, if there are problems with the new inspection teams across the country, please let us know.

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