Editor’s view - Give and Take

Karen Faux
Thursday, April 28, 2022

Ofsted’s recent inspections seem to be overzealous at a time when many settings are struggling with factors beyond their control

Karen Faux
Karen Faux

Just as it seemed Ofsted was stepping out into the sunshine – with chief inspector Amanda Spielman’s stated recognition of the importance of play and a renewed focus on early years (speaking at NW’s Business Summit in March) – a big black cloud is back over its head.

Our analysis on page 6 on how nurseries have fared under recent inspections does not make happy reading. It supports what we have been hearing anecdotally, that many settings feel they have been unfairly downgraded, which is causing much stress and in some cases business closure.

It seems to be a highly stressful situation on both sides. Ofsted has had a huge backlog of inspections to shift since Covid restrictions lifted. Its catch-up operation has been targeted at new registrations, those judged ‘inadequate’ or Requires Improvement, and those with serious safeguarding concerns. The pressure has been on to establish that children are safe, and where setting staff don’t appear to know children as well as they should (not knowing their birthdays, for example?), Ofsted has been quite ruthless. But as our analysis highlights, these issues reflect the problems of an ongoing recruitment crisis and chronic underfunding – where providers are struggling in the most difficult of circumstances. Can Ofsted acknowledge this?

One could argue that a more proportional response from it right now would help. Many settings that are judged ‘inadequate’ lose the chance to improve with the loss of their public funding, and more closures are bad news for everyone.

As Pennie Akehurst argues in her feature looking at the bigger picture for inspections, it is, perhaps, too early to identify trends under the new framework (page 44).

It will be interesting to see what Ofsted’s Wendy Ratcliff has to say at the NW Show at the end of April. See you there.

 

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