Ofsted confirms separate grades for early years in schools

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Early years provision in schools will be graded separately from September, Ofsted has confirmed.

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The grade for early years may also affect the overall grade awarded for the school’s provision.

The change, which Ofsted consulted on earlier this year, was confirmed in a letter to schools from chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.

Earlier in the year Ofsted asked for views on proposals to introduce separate grades for early years and sixth form.

In the letter Sir Michael said, ‘As you may be aware, Ofsted consulted recently on plans to introduce separate graded judgements on the quality of schools’ work in the early years and sixth form. We consulted on this because of the vital importance of both of these stages.

‘These proposals received strong support. I intend, therefore, to introduce separate graded judgements for the early years and sixth form, where these apply, from 1 September 2014. These grades may influence the judgement on a school’s overall effectiveness.’

In the same letter, the chief inspector said that he would be considering whether to introduce no-notice inspections in schools at the request of the education secretary.

He said that he has been asked ‘to examine the feasibility of moving to routinely inspecting schools without notice.’

During the next year Ofsted will ‘broaden’ the criteria used to judge whether to carry out an unannounced inspection for particular schools to include factors such as rapidly declining standards; concerns about safeguarding, including a decline in pupils’ behaviour and the ability of staff to maintain discipline; serious complaints from parents or staff; concerns about standards of leadership or governance; concerns about the breadth and balance of the curriculum.

Neil Leitch, chief executive, Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'We welcome the decision to introduce separate inspection judgements for early years provision delivered in schools and academies. Early years care and education is pivotal to a child’s long-term learning and development and so it is important that the quality of nursery and reception provision is assessed in its own right.
 
'That said, we remain concerned about the proposal to base these inspection judgements on achievement, quality of teaching, behaviour and safety, leadership and management, rather than the existing criteria on which registered early years providers are currently judged. It’s vital that all early years provision – regardless of where this provision is delivered – is assessed against the same criteria to ensure that the inspection process is fair and consistent. As such, we look forward to reading Ofsted’s full consultation response to see what decision has been taken on this point.'

Liz Bayram, chief executive of teh Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said, 'PACEY recognises Ofsted’s commitment to ensuring high quality standards in school-based early years settings. We are interested in ensuring that the "brief evaluation criteria" proposed by Ofsted for the inspection of school-based early years settings is consistent and as robust as the EYFS inspection framework which all other registered childcare settings currently have to meet.

'The EYFS is much admired internationally and increasingly recognised by parents. It is important that EYFS based evaluation criteria are used across all early years settings for a consistent approach to quality improvement, so all services support whole child development - physical, emotional, social as well as educational. PACEY will be keen to work with Ofsted to ensure this.'