Ofsted takes school and FE inspections in house, but not early years

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Ofsted is to bring school inspections and further education inspections in-house.

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Sir Michael Wilshaw: 'Inspection, as far as I'm concerned, is just too important for Ofsted to simply have oversight of third-party arrangements.'

Early years inspections will remain with the existing contractors overseen by Tribal and Prospects.

Stories had surfaced that early years inspections would also move under Ofsted’s sole remit.

The current contracts with CFBT, Serco and Tribal for school and FE inspections have run since September 2009 and were due to expire in August 2015.

Ofsted’s director of corporate services, Nick Jackson, said, ‘The time was right to look again at how Ofsted can best deliver a service that is both efficient and flexible.’

Ofsted said that it intends for existing contractual arrangements for the delivery of early years inspections to continue.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘We are extremely disappointed that Ofsted has disregarded sector feedback and chosen not to bring early years inspections back in-house. It’s clear that there has been a steady decline in the quality of inspections since the outsourcing of this service in 2010; we have heard far too many reports of providers being visited by inspectors who possess little understanding of early years provision – and in some cases being unfairly graded as a result.

 ‘That Ofsted has chosen to maintain the current flawed system of early years inspection, while at the same time bringing the management of inspections for schools and further education in-house, is particularly galling. Sir Michael has said that: ‘Inspection … is just too important for Ofsted to simply have oversight of third-party arrangements.’ Why, then, does this not apply to the early years? If outsourced inspections aren’t good enough for schools and further education institutions, then they aren’t good enough for early years providers. As such, we would urge Ofsted to reconsider its decision.’

June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation said, ‘We are pleased to hear that Ofsted is beginning to overhaul its services. Ofsted inspections have been a concern for the sector since the new framework came into force and led to sector action through the Ofsted Big Conversation.

‘Whatever Ofsted do they must continue to listen and address key issues of quality and consistency and articulate what they understand is quality  of teaching and learning.

Bringing early years inspections in-house would mean our concerns especially about consistency of inspections and the quality of outsourced inspection staff have been carefully considered.

‘A move towards using the energy and support offered to Ofsted through the OBC to setting up a national strategy group would give a very clear message that the regulator and the sector are working effectively together to ensure the best educational outcomes for all our small children.’

Purnima Tanuku chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said, ‘The quality and consistency of Ofsted inspections has been a real issue for the sector and whether the inspections are outsourced or brought in-house the problems surrounding quality and consistency must be addressed.

‘NDNA has been working hard on these concerns bringing them to minister’s and official’s attention through face to face meetings and by supporting sector campaign Ofsted Big Conversation.

‘However the process is managed whether it is in-house or by tender it is to be hoped this is just the beginning of an inspection overhaul and through its engagement with Ofsted NDNA would see this as a first step toward implementing paid for inspections and a national strategy group. ‘Having a strategic group with representative organisations and providers to consult on any changes and ensure the QA process is fair and consistent would be the right way to move things forward.’

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said, 'Given on-going concerns about the poor quality of Ofsted's inspection of many childcare settings and Ofsted's commitment to becoming the sole arbiter of quality, it is a missed opportunity not to bring in-house the inspection of childcare settings at the same time as Ofsted does this for schools and FE colleges.

'Michael Wilshaw made clear this decision was because he viewed inspections as "just too important for Ofsted to simply have oversight of third-party arrangements." That surely is as true for early years as schools and colleges. This decision also contradicts Sir Michael's comments in his first annual early years report where he made clear his priority was to improve the quality of care for our most disadvantaged young children.'