WALL – HEAD – BANG, not literally of course but ….   2 comments

…….my feelings of frustration and sheer disbelief at the response from Ofsted into the investigation of my complaint against Prospects investigation of my complaint about the inspection they carried out (bit of a mouthful) can be described in these terms – ie a pointless exercise.

 

First, I must acknowledge the very quick response from Ofsted, and I am grateful for this as it has reduced the amount of time that I have had to wait and therefore fret about the outcome.

However now that I have read the response three times – and note that some aspects of my complaint  are being up held – I am back to fretting and my stress levels have increased to new high levels.

 

Why you might ask – surely is is very positive that part of your complaint has been up held?

Well yes, and no !

Yes, because it means that the investigation did consider my complaint

No, because the fact that they upheld some aspects makes my whole point that the inspector did not gather sufficient evidence to make her judgement even more valid.

I will explain; (text from report in bold)

On page 2, it says;

The inspection tool kit does not allow more than one date to be entered and as the inspection took place on both days , either is equally accurate and the different dates do not affect the validity of the inspection

I accept this as a fact – I am still not happy that my report has a different date to my co minders as it is very confusing to parents – and I still say whatever date was entered should be the same for both of us. However I do accept that because the inspector entered different dates that nothing can be done about it.

It continues on page 2;

You state that as an inspector is required to read an online self evaluation form, she should have considered evidence of self evaluation in your blog. The original response letter explained that the inspector discussed your blog with you but could not access it before the inspection. There is no requirement for inspectors to search providers blogs for evidence of self evaluation. However, during the inspection, you provided enough evidence of how you reflect on and develop your practice to support the ‘good’ judgement that was awarded

For a start the inspector is confusing my blog and my setting website. I mentioned my website at the end of the inspection on 25th Feb – when the inspector asked if I had a website – I told her I did –  but apart from me saying that I did not have policies and procedures on there, we did not discuss it. And it does suggest in the inspectors guidance that they check to see if there is a setting website – however asking about this towards the end of an inspection is not helpful to gather evidence and certainly would have prevented the inspector viewing before the inspection as she did not know about it.

As to my blog – we did not discuss this in relation to reflective practice – if we had, I would have evidence about the national training and conferences that I attend and that I disseminate and reflect on  through my blogs. I would have pointed out the printed pages from my blogs that are in the setting. The inspector did not look at any documentation in relation to my reflective practice – including the staff communication book where daily reflection is recorded, the weekly newsletters where this reflection and resulting changes to practice or purchasing of resources is shared with parents. There is a huge amount of evidence of reflective practice within the setting.

Towards the end of page 2 it says.

The inspector stated that she looked at your parent surveys and she recorded ways in which you respond to their concerns. I am sorry that you were not aware of this.

The inspector could see the parent questionnaires on the work surface in the kitchen – she did not pick them up or read any of them . So I am not sure if that counts as ‘looked at’. Yes she did discuss how I deal with concerns raised. She did not appear to grasp that I dealt with concerns straight away and that I did not have an action list – even though I explained that I did not have any actions to carry out at that very moment but that by tea time I might have – and if I did I would act on the that day so that the action needed would be implement by the next morning. There is no evidence of this in the published report. The inspector also did not look at any other documentation – including the complaints folder where there were more parent questionnaires in response to verbal complaint, and documentation about how I had sent out those questionnaires the same day that the verbal complaint was received.

So I have to agree the inspector did only gather evidence that supported a ‘good judgement’ because she did not look for the evidence  about reflective practice.

How can it be right that if the inspector says she looked at something then that is taken as a fact – even when as in my case both my co minder and myself state she did not look at documentation

On page 3 it says;

You state that the inspector could not see you in the garden from where she was seated. In her response to your original complaint, the inspector said that she observed you in the conservatory interacting with the children. She also stated that she saw you in the garden while she was talking to your co minder.

This makes it sound like the inspector was in the conservatory and that she could see me in the garden while talking to my co minder. Actually the inspector was in the middle room when the children went into the garden – she did not even go into the conservatory on the 25th Feb – the day that I took the children into the garden. She talked to my co minder in the kitchen and was sat at the table – she could not see any more than my head – and then only some of the time as I moved around the garden.

So clever use of words – I maintain the inspector could not see me in the garden and could not see the children at all.

It continues on page three

However, I agree that the inspector would not have been able to fully evaluate the quality of the teaching through first hand observation while she remained indoors talking to your co minder. This aspect of your complaint is upheld.

So if we look back at my inspection report it says the inspector observed outdoor activities and that I have wheeled toys.

So saying the inspector could not fully evaluate the quality of the teaching ….. is an understatement – she could not evaluate it at all

My point is – if the inspector said she observed outside activities and backed that up by saying I had wheeled toys – when I don’t have any in my published report – but did not mention in the report the sand pit, or the discovery of the large spider web, or the getting out of the musical saucepans from the shed, or the children using those musical saucepans then how can anyone trust her recall of other aspects of the inspection?

Her own recording shows that not only could she not fully evaluate the quality of the  teaching – she did not have any evidence to back up her claims that she observed outside at all – apart from my head darting in and out of her view through the window from her sitting point.

Further down page 3 it says;

This review has found that the original response letter showed that the inspector carried out sufficient observations of practice, tracked an appropriate number of children, discussed your practice with you and looked at a suitable range of documentation. As a result of these activities, I am satisfied that, overall the inspection was conducted in line with our published framework.

mmmm – and the evidence of this? What it says in the inspectors tool kit?

The inspector identified two children to track – she DID NOT look at ANY documentation relating to those children. She did ask me some verbal questions but not many. If she had looked she would have seen for example; completed development checks that I carried out when EYFS 12 was implemented – so I had a starting point for the new framework. (And she would have seen completed two year old checks – when in the report it says I had started gathering information for two year old checks – true I had for some of the younger just two year olds or almost two year olds – but it was an assumption that I did not have any completed two year old checks – because the inspector DID NOT look at ANY documentation about the children) This included the extensive photographic documentation which she was passed on the 24th Feb and that she flicked a couple of pages of – but she did not look at the documentation again to track the identified children.

At the bottom of page 3 it says – and continues on page 4;

You believe that you could have demonstrated that the inspector did not gather sufficient evidence, had you been  allowed to submit further evidence to support your case. You state that the inspection and complaint process could affect your reputation as a honest childcare professional. You believe a further inspection should be carried out.

I am sorry that you consider the investigation of your complaint to have been unfair. The complaints process requires the investigator to consider the views of the inspector alongside those of the complainant. Where there are different versions of what was said, it is often not possible to reach a firm conclusion. This is not to say that one version is believed over another, but that, in the absence of independent witnesses, it is not possible to reach a conclusion about exactly was said or done.

So I read this that the investigation could not prove if my version or the inspectors version are correct? Fair enough I accept that this is the case.

But continuing reading page 4, I become confused, it says;

You claim that making a judgement on your practice based on what an inspector says means that Ofsted has inferred that you are not telling the truth. The role of the inspector is to make judgements on the basis of the evidence they gather during inspections. On ocassion, providers disagree with the judgement awarded and may make a complaint. We do not assume that a provider who is making a complaint is being dishonest and neither do we assume that the inspector has gathered convincing evidence. Inspectors are required to record notes of the evidence that gather during an inspection. As part of a complaint investigation these are reviewed and accessed to establish whether they substantiate the judgements reached and are reflected in the written report. If it is found that the evidence does not support the judgement, we acknowledge the error and takes steps to rectify it, for example by revisiting a setting to gather additional evidence.

The review has found that the original investigator reviewed the evidence and found that it supported the judgements.

So the investigator does not assume, does not believe one version over another BUT if an inspector has recorded in their tool kit that they looked at x, y or z – that is believed as being a honest account rather than a provider saying the inspector did not look at x,y or z.

I take this to mean I am not believed but the inspector is.

Why can it not be accepted the if the inspector did not look at said documents that the evidence is flawed?

Why can it not be accepted that if the inspector did not look at documentation or do any focussed observations (and yes in case you want to know – I do know what a focussed observation should be like – and I had a very good experience of this during the pilot inspection for EYFS 12 when a HMI carried out a focussed observation).

If the inspectors notes do not record sufficient evidence because it was not gathered then reviewing the evidence will not provide the required evidence that is needed to show that evidence was not gathered.

Let me try to explain.

I say to my friend – look I have two sweets in my handbag – therefore the evidence is that I have two sweets in my handbag (or in inspection scenarios I have two recorded pieces of evidence in my tool kit). However my friend says – ah but you have another 6 sweets in that tin on the shelf (or in the inspection scenario – there are another 6 pieces of evidence in that folder on the shelf)

But I say we can’t count the sweet in the tin on the shelf – because they are not here in my handbag (or in the inspection scenario – we can’t consider that evidence in the folder because it is not recorded in the tool kit)

In other words it does not matter how many times you look at the evidence in the tool kit – if it has not been recorded and remains not looked at on the shelf – it will never alter the evidence in the tool kit.

Therefore the assumption being made is that the inspector has gathered sufficient evidence.

Is it not possible that if a provider says the inspector did not gather sufficient evidence that they are correct?

So if as above it says

This is not to say that one version is believed over another, but that, in the absence of independent witnesses, it is not possible to reach a conclusion about exactly was said or done.

Then the only way to reach a conclusion is to visit the setting again? Otherwise the investigator is believing the inspectors is the correct version because the evidence in the tool kit says so – and the provider is not believed because no one will go out and check.

It might help if the transcript of the inspectors tool kit was made available – or even if the inspector justified their judgement against the evidence gather so if a provider did disagree they could say but you did not look at this or that, or can I show x,y or z.

In my case the inspector didn’t  follow the excellent practice of the pilot inspector who explain why she had reached her judgement and read out parts of the evidence gathered. In this inspection I still do not know why or how the inspector reached those judgements.

The ‘is not outstanding yet’ recommendations do not provide that evidence – especially as the first one put forward was not stuck to because I asked the inspector to say how that would improve outcomes for children (labelling boxes) and then the inspector struggled to come up with any other recommendations and when she did – she then changed the verbal recommendation wording in the written report.

In my experience as a QA assessor myself that is not quality assurance – before you make your judgement known you should be absolutely clear why you have made that judgement and what could be done to improve practice. Searching for something to put ‘because you have to’ (this is what I was verbally told – ‘you have to agree to something because I have to make a recommendation’) is not good practice and does not indicate the evidence for that judgement is sound.

In addition I was not unhappy with the grade – I was unhappy with the inspection and the evidence gathered – after going through the complaint process I remain unhappy, as in the end it all boils down to what the inspector recorded in her tool kit – the tool kit recording that showed she had observed outdoor activities and that I had wheeled toys

If this is not accurate how can the investigator be sure the other evidence recorded in the tool kit is accurate or indeed a true indicator of my practice?

And finally to finished, a few more points, which I did not raise in my complaint because I did not think relevant to my main complaint – but with hindsight, I can see are examples of how the inspector did not record sufficient evidence and why therefore her recording in her tool kit is not reflective of my practice ;

It has still not been explained why my co minder had a separate inspection when all the  children were contracted to me (we were not asked about this and children’s records were not looked at)

It has still not been explained why despite my extensive CPD through subscribing to most EY magazines and journals – and indeed writing for some of them; despite my well documented reflection on the training I do; despite my research and sharing practice and debate with leading EY professionals across all sectors; despite my professional Facebook group where I lead discussion and dissemination of information; despite the research for the training I provide for the local childminding groups; despite the growing number of academic projects that I am involved with; despite my membership to just about every early years membership organisation and my very good professional relation of sharing information and good practice with them all;  My report just says ‘ The childminder works closely with other childminders and shares good practice, which supports her professional development’ In my opinion a statement which does not reflect in any way my CPD.

It has still not been explained why my co minder had the same grade as me for leadership and management – even though she told the inspector that she did not lead or manage the setting

And it does not appear to be recorded anywhere why the inspector spent so long discussing safeguarding, or where she said she had noted I had Warwickshire safeguarding info on my wall  – when I have Worcestershire info; why she was not aware of recent changes to procedures in Worcestershire with regard to safeguarding when she carries out inspections in Worcestershire .

 

So investigator I remain unhappy, I continue to feel that the inspectors word has been taken as the conclusive version (believed) and that my version is not considered conclusive (not believed)

I remain convinced that the complaints process is flawed because it relies on the inspector entering all the evidence that is available, it relies on the inspector actually doing the things that have been recorded in the tool kit, it assumes that if something is in the tool kit it is reliable evidence and if something is not in the tool kit it is not reliable evidence.

And for the record I always tell the truth – I never lie, I never twist facts, I always say things as they are, but my evidence is deemed to be inconclusive.

I will be taking this further – however I am going to take my time to consider my options – continuing to follow this flawed complaints process, to take legal action or to try and engage with Ofsted directly.

I would prefer to engage with Ofsted directly via open, honest, transparent dialogue – and to be honest even if this dialogue cannot be about my personal inspection experience – I would be happy to set aside my personal complaint to engage in general discussion with the aim of improving the system for everyone.

You see Ofsted, you still have not grasped this -it is not about my grade –  its about the principle of high quality inspections and complaints systems that work.

 

 

 

2 responses to “WALL – HEAD – BANG, not literally of course but ….

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  1. I complained about an Ofsted inspection in 2008. My complaint was upheld. Ofsted had the same self serving complaints process back then. Nothing has changed. I agree with you Penny, the inspection and complaints system is flawed.

  2. Funny isn’t that one of your replies from prospect re why a decision can’t be made as it’s different views appeared on my complaint letter but mine was from Tribal!!

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