Ofsted Big Conversation - Providers feed back on Ofsted meetings

Catherine Gaunt and Katy Morton
Friday, September 20, 2013

The organisers of the weekend share their thoughts

Friday 13 September


Chaired by June O'Sullivan, London Early Years Foundation

Attendees: 50

June O'Sullivan, an organiser of the Ofsted Big Conversation weekend and chief executive of LEYF, said, 'The tone of the meeting was good humoured. The six facilitators were so good they earned a Curly Wurly each. We ended with a glass of fizz to celebrate a good, positive and constructive meeting.'


Chaired by The Co-operative Childcare

Attendees: 16, including private nurseries, childminders and representatives from local authorities

Mike Abbott, the Co-operative Childcare group general manager, said, 'The meetings were a great way of bringing childcare providers together to produce an early years proposal that will make a positive impact on the way Ofsted operates. We were delighted to host a meeting, as fairness is at the very heart of what we stand for as a co-operative.'


Chaired by Community Matters (Yorkshire), a charity that champions voluntary and community action at local levels, and supported by Leeds Play Network.

Attendees: 40+ including a large number of childminders, representatives from national support agencies and Leeds City Council.

'It was a really vibrant event that captured the pulse of current issues. The event led to some wide ranging conversations, but one of the key issues raised time and again was that Ofsted should be more transparent.'


Chaired by Ceeda, which provides research and information on early years and childcare services.

Attendees: 16, including delegates from a playgroup, a National Day Nurseries Association trustee, large and small nursery groups and independent settings.

Jo Verill, director of Ceeda, said, 'It was a lively meeting with providers from across 40 sites covering the Tyne and Wear and Teesside areas.'


Chaired by Judith Chapman and Mandy Richardson, Naturally Learning Childcare and Training

Attendees: 16

Judith said, 'We had a live Twitter feed to report comments, #ofstedbigconversation, including:

'Peer inspections would be welcomed.'

'The current situation is reducing parents' choice.'

'Inspectors should be early years specialists with suitable qualifications and experience.'

'Tragic for children if good providers potentially lose funding for two-year-olds following complaints.'

'Inspectors under a lot of pressure and are over-stretched.'

Saturday 14 September


Chaired by Jennie Johnson, chief executive of Kids Allowed.

Attendees: 65

Andrew Clifford, managing director of First Class Childcare, who co-chaired the meeting, said, 'There was a lot of concern around standards and rigour of inspection, inspectors and conflicts of interest between freelance inspectors and local providers.

'There has to be a better way to achieve our goals than having a sector that no longer trusts or believes in its regulator. Something is going to break soon if changes aren't made.'


Chaired by Tom Shea, Child First.

Attendees: 27, representing 51 settings, one childminder, one early years local authority adviser, one Ofsted inspector, and one NDNA representative.

Tom said, 'The most overwhelming feeling was that the current modus operandi, and the payment of contractors for inspection, had begun a real rift where providers felt undermined, undervalued and with little to no respect for the "outcomes" offered by the current processes.

'There was not one person in the room who was not totally committed to children and all expressed a sadness that process and procedure and fear and loathing had diluted, if not destroyed, our ability to do what we really want, which is to focus on the learning, development and care of our children.'


Chaired by Ellie Frake, early years local leader of education at North Somerset Council

Attendees: 20 from three counties, including childminders, pre-schools, nurseries, those who support settings in local authorities and an Ofsted inspector.

'The evening was very passionate, and it was highly apparent that childcare was more than a job for those present, with comments on the impact on children and families, as well as staff. When nine o'clock came discussions were still in full flow - (people) commented on how good it was to know that others shared their feelings and thoughts, and also how productive ad positive it was to work together to suggest solutions and improvements to current systems.'


Chaired by Penny Webb, Penny's Place Childminding

Attendees: 40, including childminders (15), group providers (13), staff from the Pre-School Learning Alliance including chief executive Neil Leitch, an independent trainer, and local authority representatives.

Penny said, 'PLA picked up the costs for refreshments and room hire. It was a very emotional meeting, with some very upset about their experiences, some angry, and some who had not had direct experiences but shocked at what they were hearing.

'Attendees expressed concern about whether there was a hidden agenda, as they feel that there is something driving this as part of a bigger picture. People said they felt undervalued, and that Ofsted seems determined to find fault with settings and the sector as a whole.'

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