Strong backing for separate early years grade in schools

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Ofsted’s decision to introduce separate EYFS judgements in school inspections has received overwhelming support.

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More than 70 per cent of respondents agreed that separate early years judgements in school are needed

Of the 1,498 people who responded to Ofsted’s consultation, 74 per cent ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that there should be a separate graded judgement on the overall effectiveness of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in inspections of maintained schools and academies from September 2014.

In March, Ofsted said it would be consulting with the sector on plans to rate nursery and reception classes in schools separately to reflect the ‘distinctive nature of EYFS teaching. It also proposed to introduce a separate judgement for school sixth forms.

This month, Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw confirmed in a letter to schools that separate graded judgements for the early years and sixth form will apply from 1 September 2014. He said that these grades may influence the judgement of a school’s overall effectiveness.

The inspectorate says that it believes the changes will increase the focus on important areas of school provision and help to ensure that many more children and young people have the best education possible.

Respondents in favour of the proposals said they believed that EYFS judgements should influence the overall effectiveness judgement of a school, and said the move would put EYFS classes in schools on an equal footing with other early years provision.

Respondents said that inspectors should have a good understanding of the EYFS and have relevant or current experience, as there is a separate early years framework. They also said that grade descriptors for the EYFS should be the same for schools and other provision.

In contrast, 16 per cent of consultation respondents either ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed with Ofsted’s proposals’. A further seven per cent neither agreed nor disagreed, while three per cent said they ‘didn’t know’.

Those that disagreed with the introduction of a separate judgement for early years said they felt that the EYFS is a part of a whole school, so should not be judged separately. Some believed that this would be a retrospective step that could unnecessarily complicate the inspection process.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said, 'The report has some welcome recommendations around the early years inspections in schools, but we would like to see Ofsted go further with a single framework for all early years inspections across schools, PVI nurseries and childminders.

'Schools and other early years providers such as nurseries, are still not competing on a level playing field properly with different providers being inspected under differing criteria. One of the most glaring inconsistencies is the inspection notice. While schools, children’s centres and childminders receive notice, private and voluntary nurseries do not. While we appreciate there have been efforts to reduce the notice given to schools in recent years we are urging Ofsted to take the final step and make it ‘no notice’ inspections for all.

'Another concern for both providers and ultimately parents, is the expertise of early years inspectors in schools. School inspection teams must include expert early years inspectors who meet requirements under the Early Years Register to ensure fair scrutiny and accurate judgements.'

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), said, 'Pacey is pleased to see that Ofsted’s separate graded inspection judgements for school-based early years settings will evaluate against the delivery of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), as this is critical for a consistent approach to quality improvement across early years settings.

'We await further details around the numerical grading system and evaluation metrics for the EYFS that Ofsted proposes. It will be important to ensure that this is as robust as the EYFS inspection framework which all other registered childcare settings currently have to meet. It is vital that inspectors of school-based early years settings have a thorough understanding of the EYFS and its purpose of supporting children’s holistic development – physical, emotional, social as well as educational – and that this is reflected in any evaluation of provision.'