Ofsted Big Conversation: Sector makes list of actions for Ofsted

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The weekend of action sparked a wealth of ideas from nursery owners, practitioners, and childminders, among others.

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Meetings were asked to feed back with responses to seven agreed questions for the agenda. Here is a snapshot of the proposals received:

ITEM 1 - Ofsted's dual role of regulation and improvement

  • Call for Ofsted to be a truly independent regulator, free from Government and political influence to allow the inspectorate to be impartial.
  • Local authorities should retain their quality improvement role as providers feel they know them better.
  • Improvement team needs to be independent from regulation.
  • Ofsted should have regional points of contact that providers can go to for guidance and advice.
  • A practitioner forum/advisory group set up to advise, improve and innovate with Ofsted.
  • Accessible communication with a central search engine. Information and guidance is impossible to find and inhibits good relationship building.

ITEM 2 - Ofsted's rationale for complaint-initiated inspections, which date back over ten years.

  • Stop the complaints that are over ten years old now.
  • Separate complaint-initiated inspections from full inspections, revert to model of past, when complaints were investigated separately.
  • Tribal and Prospects should change inspectors if requested by settings, particularly when there is an obvious conflict of interest, eg ex-staff-turned-inspector, inspector from setting down the road.
  • A points system should be created for different types of complaints, with timescales for how long different types of complaints should stay live, depending on their severity, especially in the case of a serious safeguarding issue.
  • If complaint found to be without grounds then the slate should be wiped clean.
  • Providers spoke about malicious complaints being made, and suggested Ofsted make it a requirement that the person making the complaint provide their details and declare their link with the setting.
  • When 'necessary' complaint-triggered inspections are carried out, inspector should concentrate on the complaint first and then carry out a normal inspection.
  • Greater transparency needed regarding how the decision to re-inspect has been made when triggered by a previous complaint that has already been investigated and a full inspection taken place.

ITEM 3 - Ofsted's Quality Assurance (QA) Process

  • QA needs to be led by qualified and skilled people and only used to cover statutory issues.
  • A QA that overturns an inspection judgement should make the inspection null and void.
  • There needs to be greater transparency, as judgements are being changed by a team who haven't even seen a setting.
  • QA should be outsourced to avoid a conflict of interest.
  • Ensure no perverse incentives for inspection providers.

ITEM 4 - Ofsted inspector training and support

  • Where possible, two inspectors for settings.
  • Inspectors need to have experience of the type of settings they are inspecting and recognise and respect the differences between them.
  • Ofsted needs to take full responsibility and not blame Tribal and Prospects, which are contracted by Ofsted, when things go awry.
  • Training for Ofsted inspectors should cover people skills and customer care skills to prevent some of the perceived problems and issues that have arisen possibly due to bad communication.
  • Inspectors should be monitored at random intervals to ensure consistency, with someone accompanying them on inspections.
  • Need an independent ombudsman or moderator to investigate inspectors when a complaint is made about a judgement.
  • There should be a requirement for Ofsted inspectors to have a minimum number of years of experience in the sector. At one meeting, attendees suggested a minimum of ten years' experience.
  • Inspectors should go back to the 'shop floor' regularly and spend time working in children's centres or nurseries. Jennie Johnson, chief executive of Kids Allowed, suggested inspectors shadow a child that bites to see if they could prevent it happening.

ITEM 5 - Inspector decision making and feedback

  • Ofsted needs to articulate and reflect a clear consistent pedagogical approach.
  • Employ inspectors trusted to collect evidence and apply their experience and common sense. The sector has little faith when inspectors are so insecure they cannot support their judgements with conviction.
  • A seven-day cooling-off period for provider to look at the report, especially if managers were away during the inspection, followed by another seven days after the final report is received. Verbal feedback should be given at an appropriate time for childminders.
  • A statement for improvement needs to be more specific. Some providers believe that the current statements are often blunt and misleading.
  • The time an inspector spends at a setting should reflect its size.
  • An inspector's own preferences for things should not play a part.
  • Ofsted inspections should be conducted by two inspectors to ensure a balanced view.
  • Inspectors need to talk and listen to children in settings more.

    ITEM 6 - Significant incidents/complaints and appeals

    • Providers must be kept in the loop.
    • Greater clarification required around the term 'significant' as it is open to interpretation. Introduce a traffic light system.
    • Some providers recognised that there might be a temptation not to report a 'critical' incident if it might trigger an inspection, but it would be better to have clearer and consistent guidance about when to report incidents.
    • Ofsted needs to examine the legal framework of malicious complaints - if they are anonymous what comeback is there for providers, especially when this could result in the setting going out of business?

    ITEM 7 - New inspection regime in November

    • Providers felt there needs to be a period of briefing and communication with the sector before the new framework is implemented.
    • Parents need to be made more aware of the changes to Ofsted grades. For example, this could be highlighted at the top of an inspection report - to explain that 'satisfactory' has been replaced with 'requires improvement' etc.
    • A 'requires improvement' judgement must trigger a full re-inspection within one year.
    • A provider that has been judged as 'requires improvement' should be able to notify Ofsted when it thinks it is 'good' and ask for a re-inspection.
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