Early years practitioners doing more paperwork than necessary

Katy Morton
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Findings from a new survey reveal that 84 per cent of early years staff think they produce more paperwork than they need to in the EYFS.

The survey, which was carried out by the Early Years Alliance in partnership with Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE), was in response to the Alliance’s Minds Matter research that found 78 per cent of practitioners rated paperwork and administration as being regular sources of stress.

The findings from the survey have been reviewed by a workload advisory group, who will agree priorities for the sector.

The DfE and Ofsted plan to expand the remit of the group, which is made up of representatives from across the sector, to become a forum for discussing wider early years workforce issues.

The Workload Survey, which received 1,261 responses from a range of different types of early years settings, also found:

  • Almost three-quarters of respondents (70 per cent) said they completed some additional paperwork in case an Ofsted inspector asked for it.
  • Over half of respondents (59 per cent) said that their internal processes required more paperwork than was necessary to meet best practice standards within their own setting, and 25 per cent to meet the requirements of the setting’s owners or senior management.
  • A third (35 per cent) reported paperwork burdens linked to meeting local authority requirements.
  • Almost a third (29 per cent) completed extra paperwork to protect themselves against parental complaints.

The survey also highlighted inconsistencies at a setting and local authority level in terms of the volume and content of paperwork being completed.

Around two in five respondents said they had received conflicting information from different agencies or organisations about reporting incidents or concerns.

Duplication of paperwork for local authorities was also flagged as an issue, as was SEND funding paperwork, which survey respondents called 'burdensome'.

More than 35 per cent said they did not feel local authority paperwork requirements were reasonable

Of those respondents who had more than one Ofsted inspection, more than half felt that paperwork expectations were ‘not at all’ or ‘not really’ consistent across inspections.

The DfE in collaboration with the Local Government Association is also planning further work to with local authorities to help them understand the paperwork requirements of early years providers and where there might be opportunities to streamline them.


Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said, ‘We’re pleased that Ofsted and the Department for Education have agreed that our top priorities must be to address the “just in case” approach we have heard so much about from the providers who took part in our research, as well as inconsistency, duplication and complexity at local authority level.

‘No paperwork should be so burdensome that it causes stress or directs time and attention away from the learning experience of the child. This is why we are working to develop practical solutions so that providers can feel more confident during Ofsted inspections and when working with local authorities.’

Wendy Ratcliff, an Ofsted inspector specialising in the early years, added, ‘We hear all sorts of myths about what paperwork inspectors might want to see, particularly around assessment. We shared the important findings of this survey during our recent inspector training.

‘Inspectors and providers involved in the pilot of the new education inspection framework inspections said they welcome the move away from looking at assessment data. The early years inspection handbook makes clear that we’ll spend most of the inspection observing and discussing children’s experiences and learning, and not looking at unnecessary paperwork. We continue to work hard to bust myths about inspection and paperwork. We’ll keep these survey findings under review as we introduce the new framework.’

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