New common inspection framework emphasises curriculum

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Assessment, curriculum and children’s outcomes are headline themes of the new common inspection framework (CIF) published yesterday.

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'Leaders will have nothing to fear from identifying any weaknesses in their provision' - Wilshaw

The new CIF is an attempt by Ofsted to ensure that parents, employers and children can compare providers that cater for similar age ranges against the same judgements.

It has been broadly welcomed by the sector, with three quarters of teachers, lecturers and early years professionals who took part in the consultation stating they were in favour of a CIF in principle.

Speaking at the NDNA conference last week, early years Ofsted chief Nick Hudson admitted, however, that just nine nurseries had been used in the pilots, as well as 16 childminders and 13 sessional daycare providers, such as creches.

The three key judgements used to gauge quality and standards in a setting have now been replaced with an adapted version of those from the schools’ and FE and skills inspection frameworks.

They were ‘how well the early years provision meets the needs of the range of children who attend’, ‘the contribution of the early years provision to children’s well-being’, and ‘the leadership and management of the early years provision'.

The areas of emphasis are now ‘overall effectiveness’, ‘effectiveness of leadership and management’, ‘quality of teaching, learning and assessment’, ‘personal development,’ ‘behaviour and welfare’, and ‘outcomes for children’.

Safeguarding will not be a graded judgement, but will come under the leadership heading. Ofsted also says there is a key focus on parents as a source of information, as well as the curriculum, with the ‘rationale’ behind a setting’s interpretation of the EYFS to form part of the inspection. Mr Hudson said that the inspectorate was clear that ‘through [the curriculum] we also capture the impact of the culture of a setting'.

There will also be an emphasis on the notion of ‘British values’ which include ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect’. The personal development section also includes a reference to extremism – ‘understand how to keep themselves safe from relevant risks such as exploitation or extremism, including when using the internet’.  Mr Hudson conceded that some of the wording wasn’t tailored for the early years and referred providers to the 44-page early years handbook which accompanies the CIF.

There will also be more descriptors for an ‘outstanding’, making it more difficult for a setting to achieve this grade.

The CIF applies, for the first time, to all settings on the early years register, maintained schools and academies, non-association independent schools, and further education and skills providers.

The new system also introduces short three-yearly inspections for schools, including maintained nursery schools, judged as at least ‘good’ at the previous inspection. Good or outstanding PVI settings, however, will not receive the shorter inspections, but will receive half a day's notice where currently they receive none.

Launching the CIF yesterday, Ofsted chief Michael Wilshaw said, ‘This is a very different inspection model to what has gone before.

‘The starting assumption of Her Majesty’s Inspectors will be that the school or college is good. This should engender an atmosphere in which honest, challenging, professional dialogue can take place.

‘Leaders will have nothing to fear from accurately identifying at the outset any weaknesses in their provision - as well as the strengths - based on their own evaluation.’

Sir Michael added that each Ofsted region will set up a ‘scrutiny committee’ made up of inspectors, headteachers, early years and college leaders not involved in carrying out inspections for Ofsted. They will rule on the internal reviews of complaints about inspection.

 Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘Clearly, the success of the new framework will hinge on how it is practically applied by inspectors. It is vital they do not take a one-size-fits-all approach, and ensure that inspection judgements are made with the understanding that that the early years is a unique stage of education.’

On short inspections, he added though that ‘Given that the aim of the new framework was to ensure greater consistency … it seems odd that nursery schools, but not PVI providers, should be able to undergo short inspections. This may well cause confusion for parents trying to compare different provider types.’

  • Ofsted has refused to publish results of the 43 pilot CIFs, which involved named settings being given a grading under the new system. A spokesman said the result had been used to inform methodology, handbooks and training and would not be published ‘as such’. ‘We piloted our key judgements under the common inspection framework; we did not pilot short inspections,' he added.
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