Putting the curriculum at the heart of inspection

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The way we inspect childcare provision is changing.

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Ofsted's Gill Jones

Earlier this month, after a big consultation, we published the new inspection handbook for Ofsted-registered provision, which will take effect from this September.

This change means a refocus in the way we assess quality in the early years; an evolution rather than a revolution, you might say. My team will spend less time looking at data and more time considering how nurseries, childminders and other types of childcare provision help young children to learn. We will want to see if young children – particularly the disadvantaged – are thinking and talking about a wide range of experiences that prepare them for what comes next.

There were more than 15,000 responses to our consultation, and we have listened to what many people had to say about the “quality of education” judgement applying to breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs. We decided that this judgement will not apply to those provisions, since they do not have to meet the learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

Our new approach puts the curriculum very much at the centre of our inspections. In the early years, this will mean more talk about the EYFS. And we have been clear that there is no need to produce progress and attainment data “for Ofsted”.

If what you are doing does not benefit the children, then don’t work on it; don’t do it for Ofsted’s sake alone. And, although inspection and regulation will never be fun, I hope our new framework will encourage the feeling that inspection is something done ‘with you’, rather than ‘to you’.

I have come across some anxiety about the phrase ‘cultural capital’, and what it means when we’re talking about very young children. Put simply, cultural capital is about giving children the knowledge and skills to prepare them well for what comes next in their lives. As you’ll know, children arrive for their first day at a childcare provider with different experiences. For example, some can ride a bike, while others might still be wobbly on their feet.

Part of the job of early years providers is to help children to gain the cultural capital that will help them in the future. This means recognising that children are unique and come with different needs. Some need much more help than others. The best providers and childminders already know their children very well and think carefully about what it is they want them to learn.

I hope you agree that our new framework is good news for the early years. After all, you decided to devote your working life to helping young children develop well. This new way of inspecting will support you in doing just that.

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