New Ofsted framework: Judgements to take into account history of provider

Katy Morton
Friday, October 4, 2013

The new Ofsted inspection framework says that inspectors must keep the 'bigger picture' in mind and take into account the history of provision, including any concerns, when making their judgement.

It states that, ‘Inspectors must take into account the history of the provision in making their judgements. Inspection is not just about what the inspector sees on the day, it is also about the inspector’s knowledge about this setting, including any concerns that have arisen and whether they still impact on the setting’s compliance with requirements, and the effectiveness of improvement plans over time.’

The framework for early years settings, which comes into force on 4 November, goes on to say, ‘In all inspections, inspectors must keep the ‘bigger picture’ in mind as well as the evidence gathered during the inspection.

‘A setting may be found to be providing a service that appears to be meeting the needs of the children and families well on the day of inspection. However, the history and information held on the setting must be considered.

‘Inspectors must be rigorous and thorough in evaluating the impact of past events on how well the setting has, and continues to, meet the needs of all children.’

The combined guidance, which includes a document on inspecting provision following the risk assessment process, says that when an inspection has been triggered by a concern raised by the setting, the inspector should discuss with the provider what happened, if the incident was preventable and any lessons learned.

When a concern or complaint has been made a parent and the provider denies that the incident took place, the inspector should focus on observations on the day of the inspection and whether these ‘lead to any concerns about compliance’.

The guidance also appears to imply that providers may be judged to be good or better where there is compliance at the time of the inspection, the provider uses information from concerns to improve practice and, where relevant, the provider took steps to notify the inspectorate about the incident.

Other changes to the framework include an increased emphasis on safeguarding and welfare, a number of references to ‘practice’ replaced by references to teaching, and the removal of references to Development Matters, replaced in some cases by references to Early Years Outcomes.

As well as this, there is a requirement for Ofsted inspectors to check staff qualifications and record them in their ‘toolkit’.

The guidance also makes a number of points that appear to go a way towards acknowledging some criticisms of the inspection process raised by providers during the Ofsted Big Weekend conversation, they include:

  • Inspectors must not simply copy and paste the information about a setting from previous reports as circumstances may have changed.
  • The time available for inspection, three hours when inspecting childminders and around four hours when inspecting nurseries. If a setting is open for longer, at least six hours or more if the provision is ‘very large’.
  • Inspector must spend as much time as possible observing a wide range of activities and care routines.
  • Where nurseries follow a particular approach, for example Steiner and Montessori, inspectors must be families with this method.

Catriona Nason, founder of Daycare Doctor (right), said, ‘While Ofsted is beginning to take a common sense approach with this new guidance, I have concerns that complaints can be made and held against a setting that are totally unjustified and unproven or even proven to be not upheld.

‘While it goes a little way towards acknowledging the issues surrounding complaint-initiated inspections, it doesn’t go far enough. We wanted to see how Ofsted would deal with complaints now and in the future. That is the biggest problem.

‘The inspectorate needs to introduce a way of measuring the level of a complaint. At the London Ofsted Big Conversation meeting we suggested using a traffic light system to highlight the severity of a complaint.

‘The current system is not fair and is making providers more nervous and fear is creeping in. Some providers are losing their businesses.

‘I wish the inspectorate had consulted and met with providers to talk about their concerns before publishing the new framework.'

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