Ofsted are not the enemy! By Sarah Neville

23rd May 2017

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From the beginning of April 2017, Ofsted have brought all early years inspections in-house and have clearly hit the ground running if the amount of inspection feedback on forums and Facebook groups is anything to go by! It is an interesting time to observe how things are going: as well as inspections they have taken over the monitoring and training of inspectors and will be totally responsible for overseeing thousands of inspections every year.

Like all Government departments, Ofsted have been subject to budget constraints and are cutting back with less helpline staff: they have said they will not ‘spoon-feed’ providers anymore and this is one of the reasons why more and more questions are referred straight back to the statutory framework. They have also put the Ofsted ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ logos online so providers can download them instead of receiving a CD and letter.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have been the childminder representative on the Ofsted Big Conversation North West steering group for some years now and, in this capacity, I have met quite a few Ofsted HMIs and compliance officers. I have also been inspected as a childminder many times over the last 23 years and met a variety of inspectors from Prospect (Tribal work in the south of England) and Ofsted. Never once in all those years have I had a problem with an inspector and I have certainly never felt they are the enemy – yet I see many colleagues go to pieces at the mention of an impending inspection.

Some years ago, I had a malicious complaint made against me and 2 compliance inspectors arrived to inspect me. I was devastated: childminding is my passion, my life and my reason for being and I could not conceive why anyone would make up lies against me to try and harm my business. Even then, at my lowest ebb, I didn’t feel any ill will towards the compliance inspectors who often have a very difficult job to do.

Inspectors have a Code of Conduct which they must follow during inspection and they tell us what they are looking for during inspection – very clearly in the Early Years Inspection handbook. We even know what safeguarding questions they are going to ask if we read the Inspecting Safeguarding in the Early Years handbook. While some providers have complained that there are too many guidance documents which contain different information and must be read alongside the recently revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS, 2017) – in the past, practitioners complained that an inspection could be likened to a test for which they hadn’t been given a curriculum and I honestly don’t think we can say that any more.

I feel it is important to be professional, friendly and, above all, confident during inspection. Ofsted have said they are not there to catch us out – as the recently published ‘inspection myths’ document shows. They want to see our normal everyday practice and they want to give us the best opportunity to show them all the wonderful things we do with the children. I truly believe that if providers are secure in their practice, know their key children well and know their safeguarding they have nothing to fear from an Ofsted inspector!

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