Ofsted and teaching by Sarah Neville

30th November 2017

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I thought it might be useful to try and unpick this latest gem from Ofsted’s new chief Amanda Spielman. On first reading, early years providers are ‘pretty good’ at caring for children but our education of children is ‘not so strong’. It also appears that the recently updated Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS, 2017) is not fit for Ofsted’s purpose either because it is ‘not as strong as it should be’ – with more information to follow on this apparently.

As a childminder of 23 years, my first cohort of children including my own have gone through higher education and university now … and I would say that the quality of my teaching was and always has been incredibly strong! They all left my care at age 4 ready for learning in school – even though in those days that wasn’t, if I am honest, at the forefront of my mind because school was more than ready for them. I wanted them to be able to put on their coats, make friends, be independent on the loo and be confident to talk to the teacher if they needed something – I wanted them to love storytelling and music and movement and have a thirst for learning – I encouraged playful learning that included lots of fun and I still do!

I am not sure how I did it after reading Ms Spielman’s message to early years, but I managed without the EYFS and further Dept for Education guidance documents for many years as well, using my knowledge of child development and my gut instinct to know that children tend to roll before they crawl and then pull up, balance and fall over quite a lot before establishing walking.

I have always been one to take the positive out of anything I read. I am trying hard not to see this as a rallying call for schools to open nurseries where 30 children will be herded into a class at age 2 and 3 so they learn how to sit behind desks, do worksheets and be well prepared for starting school.

Do I want the EYFS changed to include more academia for our youngest children? – No I do not. Do I want to continuously improve my ways of working and keep in mind the highest expectations for every child? – Yes, of course I do: and that won’t change regardless of what the latest incumbent in the Ofsted chair says or how the EYFS wording is changed. And if my ethos differs from Ofsted’s or my next Ofsted inspector says I am not outstanding anymore because of some new requirement to ‘teach’ to a formula when I know that’s not what young children need? – Well, I would be totally devastated of course, because I have only ever aimed for improvement in all the time I have worked in early years but I would rest easier knowing that I have always and will always do my very best for each individual child in my care and I am sure that is echoed by the dedicated early years professionals reading this blog.

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