The FOI request, filed yesterday, asks for detailed information on the number of early years providers that have been downgraded following a complaint-initiated inspection over the past two years.
It also asks for data on the number of providers who have been downgraded during Ofsted’s quality assurance process during the same time period.
For both queries, the Alliance has requested specific information on the degree of variance in the relative inspection judgments, for example the number of providers downgraded from outstanding to good or satisfactory.
The Alliance has also requested data on the number of formal complaints made by early years providers and a breakdown of the outcomes of these complaints, along with information on the number of inspectors who hold a relevant early years qualification.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said, ‘For months, the sector has been voicing its concerns about the fairness and consistency of Ofsted inspections.
‘The sheer volume of complaints about such incidents shows that this is an issue that cannot, and must not, be ignored and yet, for all intents and purposes, Ofsted seems to be doing just that.
‘Ofsted claims that it aims to be transparent in the way it goes about inspection and regulation work and yet, as providers will know, this is far from the case in practice. We believe that it is vital that the information on inspection downgrades that we have requested is released as, unless Ofsted recognises the scale of this problem, the issue will remain unresolved. The Alliance has endeavoured to make the case for the publication of such data directly with Ofsted, but with no indication as to when, or if, this information would be forthcoming, we feel we have no option but to make a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act. If the inspection process is as fair as Ofsted says it is, there should be no reluctance to release this data.’He added, ‘We are deeply concerned at the lack of transparency in the current complaints procedure. We have recommended that Ofsted have an active sector representative to ensure that any decisions taken are impartial and address any concerns of bias.
‘Providers should feel confident that the professionals conducting inspections are experts in their fields and their judgments are based on a solid knowledge and understanding of the early years.’
‘With the new "tougher" Ofsted framework set to come into force in November, it is critical that Ofsted addresses these valid concerns about the inspection process, and fast, otherwise they are simply setting providers up to fail.’An Ofsted spokesperson said, 'Our early years inspectors are fully trained experts who have a background in early childhood before they are even considered for the job.
'They base their ratings on what they see and hear at inspection and what they know about the provision. More than nine out of ten nurseries and other early years providers say they are satisfied with their inspection. If a provider is not content with the way the inspection was undertaken then we will be happy to discuss the matter with them.
'Anyone can see current and previous ratings for early years providers on our website.'