Report about the responses to the consultation on inspecting childminder agencies   2 comments

I was one of the 600 (or so) people who responded to the online  Ofsted consultation which ran from 23rd January to 21st March – and according to the report Ofsted also gathered views of others through other means.

Ofsted have now published their report into the consultation and the responses made – and so this blog will focus on that report and my personal understanding of the report.

If you have not read it yet – you can do so by CLICKING HERE

You can read the Nursery World article on this report HERE

and to read the CYPN article CLICK HERE

 

As I am a member of so many groups and organisations within the Early Years sector – I need to make it very clear that the views expressed in this blog are my personal views and are not those of any person or group or organisation that I work with or are involved with.

Before I start though I think everyone should remember and take into consideration that those responding were not doing so because they agree with childminding agencies or they don’t – they were responding, knowing that Childminding agencies would be happening (due to complete lack of any major amendment within the progress of the then Children and Families Bill) and so were commenting about the importance of getting the inspection of childminder agencies right.

Many of those responding still do not want to personally join a childminder agency BUT as we are going to get them anyway, felt it was better to comment about the inspection of them – than to not comment.

Luckily this is a short report – just 9 pages long, and the first 3 pages just contain the cover page info, the Ofsted ‘about us’ blurb and the contents page. So it is not until page 4 that we cam begin unpicking the detail of the response.

On page 4 it says 68% of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with Ofsted’s proposal for no notice inspections.

I think this is right – if agencies are supposed to have robust systems as the basis of their inspection and the resulting judgement / grade that they are given – then these robust systems should be in place all the time.

This does not mean that 68% are in favour of childminder agencies – just that they think that Ofsted should carry out ‘no notice’ inspections.

Still on page 4, they say 61% strongly agreed or agreed that inspectors should make ‘an overall effectiveness’ judgement on the quality of a childminder agency.

And again – so they should – after all, we all have this overall judgement currently – so why shouldn’t childminder agencies

As before this does not mean that 61% support childminder agencies – the question was not ‘Do you support childminder agencies?’ therefore it can not be assumed that those who responded do or do not support childminder agencies

And finally, for page 4 – 63% strongly agreed or agreed that Ofsted should use a four point scale for judgements.

That is the only point those 61% were agreeing with.

Moving onto page 5 and more statements about people strongly agreeing to or agreeing to the proposals – hardly a surprise really when the questions are about agencies self evaluation, that parents and agency childminders views should be part of the evidence gathered during an inspection, and that agency reports should be on the Ofsted website.

Of course people will agree as these points apply to individual Ofsted inspections of all early years settings – so it is about trying to ensure some form of consistency.

However none of the questions and the responses are about if respondents support childminder agencies.

The rest of page 5 is about parent views from those parents that Ofsted spoke to directly – however it does not say how many parents they spoke to.

The parents view was similar to that of the on line responses – of particular note is parents thought Ofsted should not take too much notice of an agencies view of themselves because parents thought agencies would just promote their positive aspects and not highlight their weaknesses.

Extremely sensible thoughts by the parents – but actually the whole idea of robust systems is that agencies can promote the things they are good at and just not mention other aspects. Their training and QA systems will be self regulating – by the agency – apart from the few childminders that Ofsted will visit as part of the agency inspections.

So my question has to be why will agencies be able to carry out their own QA of what they do – and Ofsted just check the robust systems?

Pages 6 and 7 give the actual response percentages

Pages 8 and 9 say what will happen next – and in my opinion this is very interesting!

I have copied and pasted from the report for this part of the blog – my comments from this point in blue

No notice of inspection to childminder agencies

  1. We will provide further clarity around the practicalities of inspecting agencies with no notice, given that part of the inspection will involve sampling individual childminders. Ofsted’s approach is to give all providers little or no notice, which is a fundamental part of seeing an organisation at inspection ‘as it is’. We will give this proposal careful thought as we develop our inspection arrangements.

So Ofsted admit there may be some difficulties in implementing this – so giving it careful thought. In my opinion if Ofsted do not carry out NO Notice inspections – they can not claim to have taken on board consultation responses or to be providing a fair or consistent inspection experience. In my opinion all inspections should be ‘NO notice’ inspections.

 

Overall effectiveness judgement

  1. Given the support for this proposal we will include an ‘overall effectiveness’ judgement in our inspections of childminder agencies. We will be clear in our inspection guidance about the meaning of the agency’s ‘overall effectiveness’ judgement.

So some clear guidance for inspectors – but as I have found out guidance is just that guidance and so inspectors do not have to follow it and can use their professional judgement. Thus one inspector may have a different idea about what ‘overall effectiveness’ means to other inspectors. In my opinion this should not be guidance it should be set in stone as to what aspects are to be considered and what – in detail – contributes to this judgement – and what would be considered ineffective.

Four-point scale

We welcome the support for this proposal, and will implement a four-point grading scale for childminder agency inspections

On the face of it – good news  – but is it? We know that inspection grades are down to not only inspectors professional judgement but also down to inspectors ability to actually view / gather sufficient evidence; their ability to record that evidence truthfully – and to use the evidence gathered effectively. If it is not happening now – can we be sure it will happen in the future with inspections of childminder agencies.

Use of self-evaluation

  1. The clear support for this proposal indicates that we should encourage self-evaluation as a means through which agencies can identify strengths and weaknesses and develop plans to improve. Given the potentially wide variety of businesses and organisations that will run agencies, we do not think it is sensible to prescribe a particular form of self-evaluation, nor can we require agencies to do this when it is not a legal requirement. We will therefore develop an inspection framework that allows inspectors to take into account the outcomes from an agency’s self-evaluation, whatever form that takes. In addition, we will make clear in our evaluation schedule for childminder agencies that the failure by an agency to undertake any kind of assessment of its strengths and areas for improvement may affect its quality judgement at inspection.

Of course at this suggestion, I personally despair – because although in principle this sounds not only a good idea but excellent professional practice – if an inspector does not bother to check documentation or to ask the ‘right questions’ or give time for further evidence to be provided at feedback time – the whole process will be ineffective – as I know from my own personal experience. I can only hope that because Ofsted are now taking the inspectors training in house and considering if the contracts with the inspection companies should be renewed – that things will improve and my personal experience will not be repeated in the future by any other setting / childminder agency.

Views of childminders and parents or carers

  1. We believe that evidence from stakeholders is important in helping to inform the inspection judgements, and this was endorsed by those who responded to the consultation. We will therefore make it clear that we expect the agency to seek the views of its individual childminders and parents or carers as part of assessing its own quality. These views are likely to influence the judgements that we make about the quality of the agency.

 

Again an excellent suggestion and can only aid effective reflective practice – however if the views gathered are not looked at and no effort is made to speak to parents or agency childminders, then effective judgements will not be made. I am placing a lot of trust in Ofsted to get ‘their act together’ not just for childminder agency inspections but for all early years inspections. 

And if readers are thinking that I am being very negative just because of my own experience – this is not the case – I know of a significant number of childminders and other early years settings who have had a similar experience to myself. I have been reassured by Ofsted that they are aware of some issues and are working hard to ensure that inspectors are consistent and follow the training and guidelines provided 

Publication of childminder agency inspection reports on the Ofsted website

  1. We will publish childminder agency inspection reports on our website. We will ensure that we develop an inspection report template that makes it clear to parents and childminders how we have reached our judgements about the quality of the agency.

Whilst I agree this should happen and agency reports should be on the Ofsted website, this is not going to compensate for the lack of individual agency childminder reports. It is going to be very hard for some one not using an agency childminder to access their report or to put in a complaint about that person. It is ok to say the agency or the parents using a agency childminder will be able to put in a complaint – but how can a member of the public, or another professional put in a complaint if they do not know any details about that person – and nor will Ofsted, In this scenario the difficulties that could be encountered are explained.

If I see a person with 3 under fives in my town  – who it is clear that the children are not her birth children – especially as has a logo T.Shirt on saying… Penny’s Place  – who is shouting at and swearing at the children – and also dragging one by the arm – what can I do? At the moment I could phone Ofsted who may be able to search using the name Penny’s Place – or I could phone my LA who may know who has a setting called Penny’s Place BUT in the future not all childminders will be listed with Ofsted – so not a lot of point calling them, not all childminders will be supported by the LA, so not a lot of point phoning the. At the moment I could do an internet search that might provide details about Penny’s Place – but with childminder agencies potentially providing marketing services through their website – a internet search may be pointless. So in this scenario – how could I complain about / report this bad practice?

And it will be equally difficult for a parent to find out information about all the childminders in their area – or to compare the inspection reports between all types of settings – and should one area have more than one agency – the difficulties will multiple.

In conclusion – the responses to this consultation are not a surprise, as everyone – if they personally agree with childminder agencies or not – is concerned about the quality of childminder agencies and so have responded with this in mind.

What is clear is that the respondents have not indicated if they support childminders agencies or not

And what is also clear is that despite there just being 3 clear months before childminder agencies are going to be rolled out in September 2014 – there are still a huge number of unanswered questions.

The responses to the consultation on childminder agencies and changes to the local authority role – will be interesting and may answer a few more questions; however the things that we really need to know about,  the Government do not intend to answer –  saying that each agency will set their own model.  In my opinion this is not good enough and people – parents and childminders, need this information to make an informed decision. The least that the Government can do NOW – is list those who are going to set up childminder agencies and for those people to publish their business model details – in full.

Time is running out

2 responses to “Report about the responses to the consultation on inspecting childminder agencies

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  1. Your scenario at the end made me think – do members of public actually complain in such situations, if the carer and children are unknown to them? If it was a nanny, one would also not know where to complain. So I guess members of public will not be able to complain – unless whatever they see is concerning enough to call the police there and then. Not ideal, obviously, but I think this is just something parents will have to keep in mind when deciding to place their child with a childminder?

    • You are right of course about members of public – however as a childcare professional I would not know who to complain to either – and that worries me

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