Out-of-school clubs judged against old criteria

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Out-of-school clubs are being downgraded by Ofsted for failing to meet inspection requirements that are no longer applicable.

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Wylye Coyotes After-School Club believes it was unfairly graded

Despite reforms last year to learning and development requirements, staff ratios and qualification levels for out-of-school clubs that care for school-aged children, a number of providers have reported being measured against the old criteria.

Since September 2014, out-of-school providers do not need to meet the learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for Reception class children, nor do they have to operate at a ratio of one adult to eight children or employ qualified and experienced staff.

The new Ofsted Early Years Inspection Handbook, relevant from September 2015, confirms that: ‘When inspecting settings providing care before and after-school or during holidays for children who normally attend Reception (or older) class during the school day, inspectors should not seek evidence that relates to the learning and development requirements and should not make a judgement on outcomes.’

While the changes have been in place for nearly a year, the Out of School Alliance (OOSA) told Nursery World it has been receiving calls from its members confused at why they are still being judged against the pre-existing requirements when they only take school children. They have also raised concerns over inspectors’ lack of knowledge of how out-of-school clubs operate.

One member, Wybers Wood Out-of-School Club in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, reported being downgraded by Ofsted for not having key workers in place for its older children.

The setting, which was inspected in April, was graded ‘requires improvement’. Owner Tracy Franklin said, ‘I was informed by the inspector that all my children require a key worker no matter what their age. She claimed that she had spoken to parents who told her they didn’t know who their child’s key worker was. This is because the parents she spoke don’t have young children. Our policies do state who the early years key worker is, and the document is available to all, but the inspector wasn’t interested in reading it.’

Ms Franklin said that the inspector was also unaware of what the Playwork Principles are and didn’t appear to understand the primary role of an out-of-school club: ‘She [the inspector] implied the out-of-school club is a nursery and wanted to attach nursery principles to the setting.’

Ms Franklin said that as a result of the inspectors’ lack of knowledge, the club’s Ofsted report was full of inaccuracies.

Another OOSA member was penalised by an inspector for not providing evidence of observation, assessment and planning. Funcare in North Yorkshire told Nursery World one of its five out-of-school clubs was downgraded by Ofsted and staff were given actions to improve observation, assessment and planning despite the inspection taking place just four weeks before the new reforms came into place. Funcare runs five out-of-school clubs for children aged four and upwards, as well as three nurseries, all in Harrogate.

Director Josy Thompson said, ‘The St Peter’s Club was inspected last August, just weeks before the new reforms. We were downgraded from “good” to “requires improvement” and given actions to improve our observation, assessment and planning, despite arguing that from September we would no longer need to meet the learning and development requirements.

‘We wrote to Ofsted saying that we would not make the improvements as they were pointless. We hoped that the refusal to take action would generate another inspection, by which time the new rules would be in place, but we still have not heard from the inspectorate.’

According to OOSA, a lot of its members are also receiving incorrect advice from Ofsted inspectors and its helpline, particularly regarding the qualifications of staff.

One provider was incorrectly told that the manager of the out-of-school club must have a childcare qualification. Under the current rules, out-of-school club staff caring for Reception class children and older are not required to hold any relevant qualifications or experience.

Catherine Wrench and Clare Freeman, joint directors of the OOSA, said, ‘The experiences of our members demonstrate how poorly prepared some inspectors are. They don’t understand the requirements for out-of-school clubs or know the difference between the early years register and childcare register.’


PRE-SCHOOL PLACES

With the additional requirements placed on out-of-school clubs providing places for pre-school children, and the confusion with Ofsted, some providers are being put off taking young children.

The observation, assessment and planning requirements still apply to providers with children under Reception age.

Susie Glenister, who runs a Banana Moon franchise nursery in Bedfordshire, said they have stopped taking pre-school children at the after-school club to minimise any confusion.
Writing on Nursery World’s LinkedIn forum, she said, ‘I understand the rigorous quality assurance process at Ofsted, but when my report came back complaining about the planning, observation and assessment standards applied to the wraparound service, I did raise an eyebrow.’

Kate Brayne, manager of Wylye Coyotes After-School Club in Wiltshire, has been considering expanding her provision to two-year-olds, but said with the stricter criteria placed on providers on the early years register by Ofsted she is questioning if it might be better financially to provide places for school-age children only.

During the setting’s inspection last October, the inspector told Ms Brayne that the setting would not receive more than a good grade as the inspector didn’t give outstanding ratings to out-of-school clubs. The inspector’s reasoning, she said, was that out-of-school clubs, unlike nurseries, don’t see the same children regularly, so cannot achieve the same standards.

Debbie Alcock, managing director of training company Influential Childcare and a former Ofsted inspector, said the problem lies in a lack of support for after-school clubs. ‘The regulation of after-school clubs seems to be the least understood in the sector and appears to have the least support,’ she said.

‘Few local authorities provide training for out-of-school club providers on the legislation and regulation of settings, so it is no surprise that there is confusion.’
She added, ‘Providers appear to still be worried about not doing observation, assessment and planning formally in case they are marked down.’

Another issue for out-of-school providers with pre-school children, said OOSA, is that if an inspector turns up on a day when none of these children are in attendance the setting will not receive a full inspection and will not be given a grade.

The Ofsted Early Years Inspection Handbook 2015 states, ‘Where there are no children on roll, the inspector must make it clear at the start of the inspection (or during the initial telephone call) that the inspection will not be a full inspection, but a check that the provider continues to be suitable to remain registered. As a result, no grades will be given against the four key judgements.’

In many cases, these settings have to wait four years before another inspection, said OOSA.

An Ofsted spokesperson said, ‘We are confident our inspectors and staff are well versed in the inspection framework. But if anyone who runs an out-of-school club is unhappy about the way it has been inspected, they should raise that during the inspection. Otherwise, they can complain formally.

‘We recognise that out-of-school clubs are different to other early years settings. They do not have an obligation to teach and help develop young children under the terms of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

 ‘There is no reason why an out-of-school club cannot be given an outstanding judgement.’

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