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INSPECTORS FAILED BY NEW-STYLE TEST

I was quite surprised that Nursery World had a two-page article on the plight of the early years inspectors. Part of me had thought that this poor attempt at designing and carrying out an assessment process might be kept quiet and might proceed unnoticed by the wider early years sector. I applaud those inspectors who have had the courage to speak with you.

Despite writing to the directors of one of the organisations that are contracted by Ofsted to carry out the early years inspections, I received no communication at all save the failsafe comment of 'It's Ofsted who set the assessment -it's nothing to do with us'. Disappointed, I had no choice but to accept the decision of the organisation not to challenge what has been the most awful example of assessment design I have ever had the displeasure of seeing.

Rather than wanting inspectors who are competent and experienced in observing quality practice and quality learning experiences, the assessment appears to have been problematic for both new and experienced inspectors alike, with no discrimination between the two. The assessment did nothing more than test the memory of potential inspectors by giving them a list of questions based on the new EYFS framework, most of which were so ambiguously written that every inspector undertaking the test might be excused for writing something different from that written by the person sitting next to them.

The written assessment, which was indeed based on some video clips, was a test of how well an inspector could document, under a time limit, their evidence. This of course did not match reality in that an inspector would make notes, go home and write a report. In a real inspection the 'notes' that are made would never find their way into a report in their original format.

There was never any discussion about how the written piece should have been done, neither were there any training sessions on just exactly what Ofsted wanted to be written during the test.

The assessments were given to a range of new and experienced inspectors and, as someone who writes assessments weekly, I raised this with the organisation involved in the training, and highlighted that where an assessment is being failed by both new and experienced inspectors, there must be a problem with the assessment design. To which I was told 'It's Ofsted who set the assessment - it's nothing to do with us'.

The treatment of inspectors in both organisations was unfair and unequal, with freelance inspectors paying an average of £500 to take the assessment, only to be told they wouldn't be asked to inspect, as well as substantive inspectors failing twice but still being allowed to inspect if they 'shadow' an inspection again.

My questions remain - does Ofsted want experienced early years specialists observing and recording quality in settings, or does it want anyone from any background, but who managed, through sheer luck to pass the assessment?

How does it explain whole groups passing with certain trainers and whole groups failing with other trainers?

How is it possible to have 30 years' experience writing reports, only to fail this assessment, when new inspectors who have never before written a report, passed?

It seems that it is not the experience of inspectors, their background or their trained eye to see quality in a setting that has been at the forefront of these assessments. If this is the case, just exactly who will be judging our early years settings in the future, and how can our sector be sure that when they are awarded a good, or satisfactory grade, that the inspector responsible for giving the grade really understands early years pedagogy in practice.

Chelle Davison, Halifax

Our star letter wins £30 worth of books

RIGOUR FOR ALL?

I am a retired early years inspector. I have just had lunch with some retired ex-colleagues who were talking about what is happening to EY inspectors at this time and directed me to your article relating to the assessment Ofsted inspectors have undertaken in regard to the revised EYFS. I do not have a problem with assessing inspectors' competence and understanding of the new framework, but my question to HMCI is: have all the school inspectors (HMI) and associate inspectors who inspect EYFS as part of a whole school inspection been subject to the same rigorous assessment of competence as early years inspectors? If not, why not?

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Send your letters to ... The Editor, Nursery World, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP, letter.nw@haymarket.com, 020 8267 8401.

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