ROBUST SYSTEMS for OFSTED INSPECTIONS?   12 comments

I recently had an Ofsted inspection that was a brought forward inspection due to a serious complaint being made against myself and my practice.

The compliance inspector visited on the 6th January 2014 – yes the first day back after the Christmas holiday. Despite the fact that we were of course all settling in after the holidays, I was not concerned to have a compliance inspector on my doorstep, as I am in fact, in favour of no notice inspections – and at Penny’s Place it is as it is, and inspectors are welcome at any time.

The compliance inspector told me verbally that the complaint was completely unfounded but that I would now have a brought forward inspection.

I am aware that new guidance has now been produced and that in the future a complaint will not always lead to a full inspection. Hopefully a common sense approach will prevail in the future – which will save a lot of unnecessary expense and waste of time for Ofsted – not to mention avoiding a lot of stress to practitioners – who have not done anything wrong, but who worry that all will not be ‘right’ on inspection day, or that the inspector will not make a professional, fair judgement on their setting, based on what they observe on the day.

Anyway as the complaint against me was made before the new guidance was issued, I knew that I would get a brought forward inspection; and so had the stress of thinking every day – will this be the day – not a nice thought – and one of the reasons why I would prefer no notice inspections.

However I did welcome the opportunity to have an inspection – as I have strong personal opinion about early years care and education and so do things a bit differently to other settings / childminders – and was keen to have an inspection to see how my practice would be judged against EYFS 2012

So on Monday 24th February the inspector did turn up – as it turns out she could only stay for 30 minutes, as I had a doctor’s appointment, however she took a few details. We did ask her if she wanted to wait for our return – but she said no, as had another appointment in the afternoon, and so would return the following day – Tuesday 25th February.

Inspection Day

My co minder was present – and we had four children present all day – one of whom is my co minders own  child.

We were told that my co minder would have her individual inspection as well – which I did not understand because a) the complaint was against me before I worked with a co minder and b) my co minder works as my assistant – and I lead and manage  the setting .

Still we were both inspected – and of course I cannot tell you the grade either of us received, as we have to wait for the report to go through the QA system first.

You may be wondering why I am writing this blog when I cannot comment on the grade or say if I agree with that grade or not.

Well I am writing it for three reasons;

One; I want to complain about my inspection – not about the grade – but about how the inspection was carried out. I am very frustrated that there is no system to do this before the draft report is emailed to me. And I have checked with the company who employs the inspector (who you all know will be either Tribal or Prospects) – and no there is not any way to complain until the report is ready.

To me this is not acceptable and not part of a robust Quality Assurance system – I should be able to complain about the actual inspection straight away, as it is not dependant on the wording in the report. My grade is neither here or there – and if during the QA process my verbal grade is reduced or improved, it will make no difference – I will still be complaining about the inspection.

Two; I have a feeling that other settings will have had similar inspections, where guidelines were not followed and where there are unhappy with their inspection. So by writing this blog, I hope to raise awareness that this happened to me, and to ask other to come forward and say if it has happened to them – because if it just me that has had this experience – well it is just a minor issue – BUT if lots of others have had the same or similar experience then it is evidence that something needs to be done and that Ofsted need to reflect on their systems and their quality assurance methods.

Three; It is well known that I am an active campaigner against childminding agencies – and the fact that agency childminders will not have an individual inspection, report or grade – and the whole agency ‘thing’ will be based on assessing the ‘robust systems’ of the agencies – and grading them on those systems. My thoughts are if ‘Robust systems’ that are supposed to be in place – as set by Ofsted and which should be followed by Tribal and Prospects – and they are not being followed – how can anyone believe in or have faith in ‘robust system’ for childminding agencies, when we could be talking about hundreds of companies making judgements – and not just two companies as we have now. Add to that the fact that no one will be able to compare reports or grades of agency childminders (because there won’t be any to compare) – what measures are going to be put in to ensure systems are followed?

Before I write about why I think my inspector did not follow guidelines – I need to make it clear that these are my personal thoughts and not those of any other individuals (including my co minder) or any organisation that I am involved with – including the Big Ofsted Conversation group.

I am going to mainly state facts, and reserve personal opinion to the very end of this blog. I am well aware that it will be my word against the inspectors about this, and that I may not be believed – however I think I do have a reputation for being honest – even when not in my best interests. I am also aware that in writing this blog, I may not be doing myself any favours – but I cannot just sit back and say nothing. I am not prepared to wait weeks for my inspection report, when my concerns are not about my grade and therefore are not about the wording in my report. I am challenging how the inspector gathered her evidence and therefore what she based her judgement on – certainly I have never had an inspection like this before – and that includes the one as part of  the pilot inspections for EYFS 2012.

I am going to use text from the Ofsted document ‘ Conducting Early Years Inspections’ which came into force on 4th November 2013, however I will not be re producing all the text – just the relevant bits – my comments are in blue –

The time available for the inspection (pg 5)

The size and complexity of provision will determine the amount of time spent on inspection and the number of inspectors that are deployed. When inspecting a childminder the inspector will normally be on the premises for about three hours.

The inspector arrived at 9:50 and left at 14:00, so present for 4 hours and 10 minutes – she made us aware that she had another appointment at 14:00.  She carried out two inspections in that time.

Before the inspection (pg 6)

Check whether providers have a webpage. This may give useful details about the provision and may give access to self-evaluation information or improvement plans.

This was not done – there is a setting website and a blog with posts about the setting and my campaigning. An internet search of either Penny Webb, Penny’s Place or Penny’s Place Childminding brings up a lot of results. The inspector asked towards the end of the inspection for the website details.

During the inspection (Pg 7)

Arrival

1.        When the inspector arrives at the provision s/he must:

  • Ask the provider to display the notice of inspection so that parents are aware an inspection is taking place     Not done
  • Make arrangements to talk to parents – this may be almost immediately if parents are present     Not done
  • Make arrangements for a longer meeting at a convenient time with the provider      Not done
  • Confirm the accuracy of, or any changes to, the information about the setting. Inspectors must check staff qualifications and record them in their toolkit        Asked about qualifications – did not visually check
  • Agree a timetable for inspection activities, including joint observation    Not done
  • Make arrangements for feedback to the provider at the end of the inspection.     Not arranged in advance. Took place at end of inspection and both practitioners aware that inspector had a 2 pm appointment.

 

Meeting with the provider (Pg 8 & 9)

As part of the inspection, the inspector must meet with the provider, or the manager if the provider is not present. The inspector must consider the best time to hold the meeting with the provider. Normally it should be early in the inspection so that the matters discussed can be followed up during the inspection.  The inspector spent most of the time in discussion with me, and said that was doing so because on day of inspection my co minder was acting as an assistant. However still completed two inspections. The inspector did not directly observe me when I was supervising the children (in garden and the only time that had sole charge of the children), as spent that time in the kitchen in discussion with my co minder.

Where the provision operates from one room or in the provider’s home it is expected that the meeting will take place when the children are engaged in activities and at appropriate moments during the general observations. The inspector wanted to talk to both providers separately and in the kitchen away from the activities / experiences taking place.
The effectiveness of staff supervision, performance management, training and on-going professional development and its impact on children’s well-being and learning and development. Although made clear that I manage the setting the inspector did not ask any questions or view any documentation about supervision of my co minder.
The use of self-evaluation in informing priorities and setting challenging targets for improvement, including:-  how the views of parents, children and partners contribute to self-evaluation   The inspector did not read the parent questionnaires, only asked what improvements had been made – however there were none as a result of the questionnaires. Constant reflection on practice and working in partnership with parents takes place resulting in changes / improvements being made on a ongoing basis. The inspector did not ask for examples of these changes / improvements, or view related documents.
Progress towards any actions that have been set and/or recommendations raised at the last inspection or following a monitoring visit    The inspector did not view the complaints log where actions taken are recorded
The effectiveness of the provider’s plans for driving improvement in the quality of teaching and children’s achievements, particularly the most vulnerable The inspector did not view the setting communication book where discussions and reflection are recorded.   The inspector only glanced at one newsletter that was given to her, she did not view any of the other weekly parent newsletter where information about changes and support for children’s development is shared with parents
The extent to which standards are set and maintained and practice is consistent Setting documents were not viewed, questions were not asked about this aspect

Arrangements for safeguarding children, including child protection procedures, risk assessment of the premises and outings, staff recruitment procedures and staff supervision. Safeguarding policy was asked for – and printed, but not read or taken away to refer to. Risk assessment was only briefly discussed with co – minder – not at all with myself. 

 

Gathering and recording evidence

Evidence is drawn from past history, observation, talking with children and adults – including parents – and scrutiny of documents  (taken from note at bottom of page).

Setting documents were not viewed, parents were not spoken to, children were only briefly spoken to – and not about what they were doing

The inspector must spend as much time as possible observing a wide range of activities and care routines, talking to practitioners and children about what they are doing and evaluating children’s understanding and engagement in  learning.   This did not happen – informal observations only while engaged in conversation. Did not ask adults or children about what they were doing.

In setting up the inspection the inspector should engage the provider in the inspection and explain how and where evidence will be gathered. The inspector continually asked for a pre planned activity to take place – even though had been explained that our ethos means we set up the environment – and then follow the lead of the children. The children had already taken part in one of the activities set up (painting) and the evidence of this was on the table and some of the mark making was referred to during discussions about development. However the children did not choose to take part in any of the other activities / experience set up for that day – and instead chose to use the continuous provision to travel in a different direction and for the first time engaged in vet play (which was supported and extended) – and later wanted to go outside – which they did
 

Judging Progress (Pg 11 & 12)
1.        Any evaluation of children’s progress towards the early learning goals must be judged in relation to their starting points, their individual needs, how long they have been at the provision and how often they attend. The inspector should examine the information that the provision gathers about what children know, can do and enjoy when they start to attend. Evidence of starting points can also be gained by talking with staff and parents about the level of children’s social, communication and physical skills on entry, and, importantly, by observing children new to the provisionStarting points were not discussed, nor were child’s diaries or photographic evidence looked at. 
How and when parents are asked for information about their child’s development This was not discussed. Documents were not viewed

Observations of activities and care routines (Pg 12 & 13)
1.        Inspectors must spend most of the inspection time gathering first-hand evidence by observing children and practitioners during learning activities, play and daily care routines. This was only achieved through observation while engaged in conversation with practitioners
1.        The inspector should observe whether adult interactions are merely concerned with supervising and caring for children, or whether adults motivate children, encourage them to be independent and support them to manage their personal needs relative to their ages. In particular, the inspector should evaluate whether adults’ questions challenge children to think and find out more by encouraging them to speculate and test ideas through trial and error. They should also assess whether adults model language well, develop children’s ability to express their ideas and extend their use of new words. The inspector should identify what children can do by themselves and what they can do when supported by a practitioner.  The inspector did not observe me when I was directly engaged with the children. 
1.        The inspector should talk with children and adults as appropriate. Much can be achieved through incidental conversations prompted by what is observed, although the inspector should take care not to interrupt the flow of activities. The inspector did not do this

Case Tracking (Pg 14)
1.        As childminders only have a small number of children, inspectors will not be able to track a sample of children in the same way. Nevertheless, they can follow the same principles for collecting evidence and evaluating the childminder’s practice and its impact on children’s learning and development and well-being. The inspector did identify two children to track and did refer to their development – but did not view their personal records / evidence

Joint Observations (Pg 16)
1.        Where childminders work alone it is not possible to carry out joint observations in the same way. However, it is possible for the inspector and childminder to jointly observe individual children and discuss their learning, progress and behaviour together as part of the activities that the children are engaged in. This is an effective method in assessing the childminder’s understanding of the different levels of development and abilities of the children he/she is caring for. The inspector should engage in observation of a specific activity planned by the childminder, and discuss with the childminder the aims of the activity and the learning intentions. The inspector should follow this up with a further discussion about what the child has learnt and what the next steps in their learning should be. Where childminders have assistants, a joint observation of one assistant may be possible. Joint observations did not take place of the assistant or of the children.
The views of parents (Pg 16)
1.        If the majority of children arrive at, or are collected from, the provision at a particular time the inspector should set aside time to speak to parents at that point. The inspector must ensure opportunities for speaking to parents are not missed. The inspector did not ask if parents could be available. One parent currently on maternity leave, and so could have popped over to speak to the inspector.
Documentation (Pg 17)
1.        Childcare providers are expected to have written policies and procedures as set out in the Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation StageChildminders are not required to have these in writing but must make sure that any assistants are aware of the required policies and procedures and can define them for parents and others when requested. All providers, including childminders, are expected to keep certain written records in English. Apart from the safeguarding policy that was asked for but not read – the only mention of policies and procedures was that practitioners said all parents have a parent pack, containing policies, procedures and other setting documentation
Legislation other than early years foundation stage
In addition to meeting the Early Years Foundation Stage requirementsproviders must also comply with other relevant legislation. This includes safeguarding legislation and legislation relating to employment, anti-discrimination, health and safety and data collection. Where the inspector identifies concerns that may also relate to other legislation s/he must notify the compliance, investigation and enforcement team, who will decide what action should be taken and whether there should be liaison with the appropriate agencies. Documentation was not viewed – things like ICO were not discussed. Car insurance was checked

Policies and Procedures (Pg 18)
The inspector does not need to check all the policies, procedures and documentation but must check all Disclosure and Barring Service records and record in their evidence base that they have done so. Inspector had a fleeting view of these within a folder as practitioner turned the pages.
 
The inspector should also check a small sample of other policies, procedures and documentation, including:
a selection of recruitment records (where applicable)
qualifications, including paediatric first aid (to ensure ratio and qualification requirements are met and whether these in turn are having an impact on the quality of provision)
whether all staff have been trained to understand the setting’s safeguarding policy and procedures and that the training enables staff to identify possible signs of abuse and neglect at the earliest possible opportunity and to respond in a timely and appropriate way
a sample of induction, training and professional development records
a sample of planning and assessment documents
the complaints record
the provision’s self-evaluation where not already submitted to Ofsted.
From this list, only the first aid certificates were checked
Keeping the provider informed about progress of the inspection (Pg 20)
1.        The inspector should hold brief discussions with the provider to discuss emerging inspection findings. Any meetings with the provider should be recorded in the inspector’s evidence.  There was one mention of emerging findings
1.        Before the inspection is complete, the inspector should check again with the provider whether there is further evidence to take into account. The inspector did ask, but as the inspector was already late for 2pm appointment – the practitioners were reluctant to say that inspector had not looked documents, and it is difficult to do so before inspector given feedback as not aware what evidence used.
Ensure that the provider understands how the evidence substantiates the judgements The inspector gave no indication as to how the evidence substantiated the judgement
Allow the provider to raise any concerns, including those related to the conduct of the inspection or the conduct of the inspector  The inspector did ask but as before the practitioners felt that the inspector was rushing to finish the inspection to get to next appointment, this did not make them comfortable in raising concerns at that point.
Discussion with provider about actions or recommendations for improvement
1.        The inspector should ensure that the provider understands any actions or recommendations for improvement and that s/he has the opportunity to comment on the draft wording. I feel very strongly that recommendations were not valid and furthermore that despite disagreeing with those put forward, and that inspector was unable to explain why or how those recommendations would improve practice or outcomes for the children – the inspector insisted we agree with at least one each, which reluctantly (because pressure was put on us and inspector trying to end inspection) – we did agree to.

1.        Actions and recommendations for improvement should be precise, specific and detailed, making it clear to the provider what they need to do to improve and tailored to the specific circumstances of the setting. Actions must include reference to the requirements in the Early Years Foundation Stage but should not simply replicate the EYFS wording with no other detail. Recommendations must focus on areas of performance that are hindering the provision’s improvement. If appropriate, recommendations may also focus on ways in which provision might maintain and further develop areas of good and outstanding performance. Recommendations should not be linked to the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Inspectors may use the inspection criteria in the Evaluation schedule as a guide but should not quote directly from the document.
I cannot comment on the actual recommendations at this stage and have to wait to see how they are worded in the report. However, I feel very strongly that the recommendations suggested did not relate to performance that hinders the settings improvement.
Also I feel that the because the inspector had not viewed the settings documentation or carried out uninterrupted observations, or spoken to parents, or looked at the setting website, that she had not grasped the ethos of the setting and the fact that continuous reflective practice is central to that ethos. Therefore making suggestions for recommendations that might maintain and further develop areas of good or outstanding practice demonstrate that the inspector does not understand that any improvements or further development would be made – as appropriate to the needs and interests of the children at the time, and also to meet the needs of the parents using the childminding service.


Once the draft report has been emailed to me, I will be commenting on the actual wording
I will also be writing a blog about the activities that took part on inspection day, so that my record of the day is available to compare with the inspectors view of the day.
Finally – I must reiterate this is not about my grade – quite frankly any judgement made on my practice by an inspector who does not follow the clear guidelines set – is not worth the paper it is written on. 
Guidance is given for a reason – if it says MUST then I expect an inspector to do it – just the same as where it says MUST within the EYFS 2012 – the inspector has every right to expect me to do it.
So has anyone else had an inspection where the inspector did not follow the guidance – is my experience a ‘one off’ or not?
If you wish to comment on here – please do but please remember this is about inspection guidance not being followed and not about grade given (although clearly, if guidance is not followed – then questions need to be asked about how judgements were made).
 UPDATE
Since I wrote this blog – I have been contacted by a colleague who signposted me to the Ofsted website – and it appears that not only did I have a bad inspection experience through guidance not being followed – I was also given incorrect information about when and how I can complain.
Therefore following that advice I have looked on the Ofsted website and following their Step One complaint process – I have emailed the inspection company and asked for information on how to complain about my inspection before the report comes out. If I do not receive a prompt and satisfactory reply, I will be complaining directly to Ofsted – as described in Step Two.

The whole thing is completely unacceptable

12 responses to “ROBUST SYSTEMS for OFSTED INSPECTIONS?

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  1. Hi Penny,
    Seems like you have had a similar inspection to me. I was graded outstanding in Feb 2011 but it didn’t go online until the end of July 2011. So I have only been able to celebrate my achievement for two and a half years. I moved home and now work with a newly registered childminder who was due her inspection. The inspector was Diane Adams who’s conduct we found to be appalling. After complaining to ofsted about her conduct and like you , not my grade we have realised prospects are policing themselves not ofsted. The inspector has denied and not
    told the truth about some of our grievances we had. One being she told me not to expect to keep my outstanding and for my Co childminder not to get the same grade … We had already been judged. Consequently I’m now of good grade and my Co childminder now requires improvement. Yesterday my Co childminder went to her graduation she has a BA in primary education degree. It doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I will no longer improving and don’t feel the need to work towards outstanding again only for it to be taken away.

    Thank you Penny for listening.
    Paula Humphires

    My website needs updating, the younger lady is an old assistant.

    • Thank you so much for commenting Paula – and I am really sorry to hear about your inspection experience. If I can help in anyway please let me know – especially as I am part of the Big Ofsted Conversation group where we are trying to work with Ofsted to improve things – and one way of doing this is to have evidence of how many are experiencing inspections like this.

      I hope that if anyone else has had a flawed inspection that they will comment – we have a right to have inspections that follow guidelines and that make sound judgements based on the practice observed and documentation available.

  2. Pingback: Tuesday 25th February 2014 – Inspection Day! | Penny's Place Childminding

  3. Penny,

    I think you know that once upon a time I did this very job. I want to let you know that I absolutely hear your frustration at proper process not being followed, and I wholeheartedly agree that you have endured a poor quality inspection. What can I say – I know the inspectors who are still out there doing it are 1) right up against every one of the 29 Key Performance Indicators that Ofsted has built into the contract with the two inspection providers and 2) they are in many ways increasingly prevented from doing a good job. The QA process was, at the point I left after 11 years of exemplary performance review, almost unfathomably unpredictable and most inspectors feel like they are nothing more than mice on a wheel powered by forces much larger than themselves.

    Keep fighting, keep challenging. I have a suspicion that there will be a substantial overhaul of the process as a whole and that both providers are unlikely to get another contract. They never did understand the regulatory nature of what they were taking on, and they adopt utterly inappropriate ways of managing the people who do inspections. Your willingness to fight back speaks only of the quality of your service and your integrity.

    Leoarna

    • Thank You Leoarna

      I can only do my best – and hope that something is done about not just my inspection and that of my co minder – but that something is also done about all the other unfair, inconsistent inspections that I am hearing about.

      I think most settings will accept any judgement that is based on observation, documentation, and professional not personal opinion.

  4. I have had similar problems and have been a childminder for 19 years with excellent references from professional parents.. I went through the complaints procedures, but the people who handle these procedures work along side Tribal and will not over turn or disagree with the way Inspections are carried on. The only way these have to be exposed is getting a undercover journalist involved. One day someone will be able to do that, and that is the only way these Inspectors and Ofsted will listen and take accountability to how inspections are carried out. I have had childminders who come and borrow equipment when they have a inspection, and some of them who have very basic knowledge of the English language, who have managed to get good grades and I am told it is the luck of the draw which Inspector you get on the day. If the inspector likes you, its fine. Its like a lottery system. If you are vocal and frank, they don’t like you. Like Paula, I have tried my best and worked very hard to prove myself and I have felt its not been recognised, and they will take away what you have achieved for many years, with their inspections which is done for a few hours every 4 years. I am an educated person with a Post Graduate qualification and have held very responsible jobs before becoming a childminder. I hope Ofsted does take all comments on board and do something to help people like us.

    • Thank you Gita – I too hope they listen – and one way of gathering evidence is for as many people as possible to comment here – so that we have some evidence of how often this is happening.

      Can I ask – Did you inspector follow the inspection framework? Did your inspector gather evidence to base judgements on? Did your inspector use personal rather than professional opinion to reach her judgements?

      • I was with the children, doing my routines and planned work for the day. She mentioned that she gathered evidence as per the EYFS framework. I did feel she used her personal opinion to reach her judgement. I have heard many childminders complaining, but I suppose some of them do not know how to get into sites like this to make their views known. Thank you for your good work.

      • Thank you for answering my questions Gita

  5. Pingback: Continuing with documenting my complaint process – Up date on my co minders draft report | Penny's Place Childminding

  6. Yes I agree. . I have also been treated unfairly by ofsted.

  7. I am in the process of stage 3 complaint to Ofsted following an unannounced complaint driven 6hr45 min inspection! I have just received the tribal review back in which one aspect of my complaint has been upheld which is good. the inspector was wrong on lots of facts inc ratios ! I have been left so traumatised by the whole thing that after 19 years i seriously could give up. i dread a knock on the door now! But I am persuing the rest of the complaint. she downgraded me to requires improvement for one thing that was not a requirement and like you put in a recommendation about my sef which i had evidence of anway nut i am fighting as it states it is a reason why my practice isnt good.

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