We fought the inspection system and won! Within seven working days of the EYFS coming into force in September 2008, we had an inspection at my nursery. I had been on the sick, but when I had a call from my deputy to say there were two inspectors at the nursery I decided to attend in spite of being unwell.
Their attitude appeared to be negative from the moment they walked in. There was nothing but criticism, and we had never had anything other than positive reports previously. The main problem they kept raising was the paperwork not being in accordance with the new EYFS requirements. Four members of staff had attended relevant training courses and had all come back with conflicting messages.
The inspectors took an extended lunch break - we can only assume because they were discussing what to do next.
They came back in the afternoon and then the following morning. We did an anonymous survey of the parents while they were there, and over 90 per cent gave us a 100 per cent satisfaction with the nursery care.
Then, at the feedback, the inspectors condemned our nursery in language that left me and the staff in tears. They even admitted they had only had received the EYFS inspection toolkit two days before this visit, which was their first inspection on the new format.
We lodged a complaint about their attitude and approach even before we received the report. When the report came they couldn't even get the hours of opening correct, and they labeled us inadequate. We complained and got a rewrite, but we were still classed as inadequate, and the report still had errors. We then offered Ofsted a way out: do a re-inspection immediately rather than in six months. We were told this was impossible. We involved our MP, then we got our re-inspection and got 'satisfactory' from a sensible, realistic and helpful inspector.
It is hard to challenge an Ofsted report, but it is worth it. But, as we all know, the care of the children is paramount - and your sanity comes not far behind!
Sandra Abraham, The Old Rectory Nursery, Barwell, Leicestershire
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SPEECH YEAR FEARS
In my newsletter from Nursery World, I read there are concerns that the National Year of Speech, Language and Communications may be axed.
The Helen O'Grady Drama Academy works very closely with schools - and with some nurseries - to provide a self-development programme for children and young people, designed to increase their confidence and skill in verbal communication.
Now in its 16th year in the UK and operating for more than 30 years worldwide, the Academy has seen tens of thousands of students leave classes being able to hold their heads up and speak with clarity and expression, not just in their weekly sessions but in their everyday lives.
With a tag line of 'Development Through Drama', our programme is constantly updated. Some students have been attending classes for more than 12 years. Because of the structured curriculum, students can now join the Academy when they are in pre-school and stay on to adulthood, and never repeat a lesson.
We welcomed the Bercow Report in 2008, forcing more schools to recognise the ever changing language needs we have seen in the Academy for years. We were thrilled to hear of the Communications Champion, Jean Gross, and the plans for the National Year in 2011.
What a shame if the work done so far is not continued. As a former primary teacher myself, now experienced in teaching our programme, I join other practitioners in recognising the need to spend specific time on children's basic communication skills. The Academy will certainly be watching the Government's stance very closely in the next few months.
Thank you for all the good work you do raising awareness. Let's hope this is just another piece of speculation.
Margaret Darley, training manager, Helen O'Grady Drama Academy.
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