17 May 2013,
There will always be disputes and unhappiness about regulation and inspection (and regulators and inspectors), but there has been a very distinct rise in complaints about Ofsted inspections in recent months, judging by the activity on Nursery World's forum, Twitter and LinkedIn groups.
As you will see from our news story, early years providers have various concerns. There seems to be a spate of inspections triggered by 'anonymous' complaints or by incidents notified by providers themselves, which they believe go back as far as 2001.
Then, we have heard from a substantial number of settings that feel they have been marked down for trivial matters or examples of practice that have been praised by other parties. Some say that inspectors have taken an aggressive stance or have appeared under stress.
Inconsistency of approach has always been a worry, but again appears to be the subject of rising complaints. And the appeals system is confusing to those who attempt to have their inspection reviewed.
So a raft of shocked nurseries have seen their outstanding grades crumble to satisfactory, with consequent worries about the effects on business.
No-one would want to hinder moves to improve the quality of early years provision, of course. It may be that as Ofsted takes on more HMIs itself the problems of inconsistency will diminish.
However, if local authorities lose their quality improvement role, Ofsted will need to bring the sector with it in the drive for higher standards. Its own practice, too, must give no cause for complaint.