Editor's view - The Ofsted Big Conversation rolls on

The early years sector's outrage over complaint-driven inspections was certainly one of the dominant themes of last year.

It has been really heartening to see how providers have pulled together in setting up the Ofsted Big Conversation to tackle this. Following the initial meetings, each region now has a steering group to run open meetings in advance of face-to face discussions with senior Ofsted representatives.

These are at various stages, and you can track the latest progress on our LinkedIn group or on the Ofsted Big Conversation website. It is to Ofsted's credit that it has fielded its top people to meet with the sector, even if one suspects that the OBC movement may cause irritation and raised eyebrows in some parts of the organisation!

It is also interesting that at some meetings attendees have been faced with Ofsted's belief that a lot of the complaints are 'myths', only to counter this with concrete examples.

Whatever the case, it can only be positive for regular discussions and direct contact to take place, and let's hope that the results help all parties.

The situation is far from resolved yet, however, and the fallout from the drastic downgrades is very serious for nursery businesses, as Christie + Co's Business Outlook Survey 2014 points out (see news story on our website). Uncertainty has affected revenue and occupancy, meaning that some are unable to sell a nursery or secure investment.

The Sutton Trust report into two-year-old provision also recommends, 'Further strengthen the Ofsted inspection system to ensure that it provides a robust test of quality for settings wishing to offer funded places.'

What happens in 2014 will be crucial for the early years sector's health.

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