Telephone Discussion with Gill Jones – Ofsted’s Deputy Director of Early Years   3 comments

On Friday the 20th June 2014 I had the pleasure of having a one to one discussion with Gill Jones who is the Deputy Director of Early Years for Ofsted.

I say pleasure because Gill listened, showed empathy and understanding – and came across as really wanting to make changes that would benefit children and early years settings.

However prior to the telephone discussion I was a nervous wreak and asking myself how I found myself to be in the position of expecting a call from such a senior Ofsted person.

So a little back tracking before I write about the actual phone discussion with Gill.

I had first met Gill Jones at the round table talk with the Early Years Minister Elizabeth Truss back in March 2014 – although I did not speak directly to her – but as I blogged at the time about that meeting –  I liked what Gill had to say.

I then had opportunity to meet Lorna Fitzjohn who is Ofsted West Midlands Regional Director, whilst wearing my chair of the West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation ‘hat’, as Lorna attended the West Midlands meeting on 29th April 2014. Lorna suggested I emailed Gill as she thought we could support each other in our totally different roles but shared desire to improve things around Ofsted inspections and the complaints procedure.

So I did as suggested and I emailed Gill – in fact I emailed her a couple of times, stressing that I wanted to work in partnership with Ofsted.

And Gill – who is a very busy person, and so forgiven for not responding straight away – suggested that we have a discussion, which is how we got to the point that a date and time were set for a discussion between us.

I guess some people may be asking themselves;

‘How come Penny gets to talk directly with Gill Jones?’

And maybe also asking themselves;

‘Is this anything to do with Penny’s complaint about her inspection?’

The answer to the first question is – I did ask if I could work in partnership with Ofsted …….. but I think it might have something to do with the fact that I do represent a lot of people wearing my various volunteer hats, and I do share information with a lot of others via my direct partnership working with many early years organisations, my blog, and my Facebook groups …….. and so by talking to me Gill could be sure that I would be representing not only myself and my childminding colleagues but also all other EY sectors as well ….. and she could be sure that I would would share the key points from our discussion with many others.

The answer to the second question is a NO …… and a YES All will be explained in the feedback about the call – but for now I need to make it very clear – the call was not about trying to get Gill Jones to intervene in my personal complaint about my inspection or to get the grade given changed. Gill does not have the authority to do that – and I knew that before I even contacted her – my discussion with Gill was about the ‘bigger picture’ of inspections and complaint procedures.

The actual feedback of the discussion between myself and Gill Jones

On the morning of 20th June, my friend and colleague Carol Messenger came round to help supervise my minded children during the phone call – and to be honest to help calm my nerves by chatting about other things.

The call was due to start at 11am and when by 11:05, the phone had not rung I was getting a little agitated as I was stressed – and worried at the same time. However the phone did ring shortly afterwards and when I answered it – I gave Carol a ‘thumbs up’ and went and sat on the stairs in the hall – so that I was not interrupted but instantly available if Carol needed to ask me anything or indeed needed me to end the call to meet the children’s needs.

Gill started by giving her official title , thanking me for being available to take the call and apologising for be a bit late in calling. She then threw me slightly as she asking me what I wanted to discuss – I was thrown as Gill’s PA had told me Gill would be telling me what she wanted to discuss so that the conversation aided her work.

I recovered quickly from the shock of having to take the lead – and told Gill that I would really like to discuss the inspection and complaints processes – and that if it was OK with her that I would like to use my own personal experience – and the inspection stories that I had heard through my involvement with the Ofsted Big Conversation, and my networking with others.

Gill responded by saying – yes that was fine with her and would very much support the work she is currently doing with Nick Hudson, as they wanted to engaged with settings during their review of Early Years inspections.

Gill explained a little bit about the work that she and Nick are undertaking – explaining that it was a huge piece of work, and it was going to take considerable time to complete – but that were both working as hard as they could to not just complete the work but to get it right.

I found this very reassuring as listening to Gill, I could hear her commitment and her desire to improve things.

I went through my own personal experience (but also mentioned others experiences while maintaining confidentiality, when appropriate)

I have blogged about my inspection experience and the resulting navigation of the complaints process – so I won’t go into the detail here as I did with Gill – but I will give an overview of things discussed.

  • Frustrations that can not provide evidence during a complaint – or pay for someone to come out and check additional evidence or facts.
  • That providers do not have access to the toolkit documentation if putting in a complaint – I explained that in my case information from the toolkit was given to counter points that I raised – but I was not able to refer to the toolkit documentation. I said that I felt the evidence within the draft report was not sufficient to base a complaint on – and so often came down to an inspectors word against the providers BUT because the evidence in the toolkit is taken as ‘gospel’ providers are often told throughout the complaints process ‘snippets’ of information – which if they had had at the beginning they could have presented their case a lot more robustly. I gave Gill details of where in my personal case – toolkit evidence about my inspection was within my daughter ‘s stage 3 complaint report – but was not given at all in relation to my stage 3 complaint. If I had had that information at the beginning of my complaint – I would have been able to show that the inspector had ‘ made things up and had not recorded things honestly.
  • The providers feel that they simply are not believed, and are left distraught, stressed and with the belief that they are powerless to change things – because no one believes them.
  • That providers are left not knowing what it is that they are supposed to do to improve because the recommendations are vague or personal opinion – or as in my case not based on the evidence seen / read. Gill asked me to tell her what my recommendation were and why I did not understand what I had to do to improve. So I went through them one by one – including the one that I said I would only accept – if the inspector could justify how it would improve outcomes – and that the inspector did not justify. Gill did not say if the recommendations were valid or not (and she couldn’t as not there on the day) but she did say she could see why I felt that I could not make improvements based on those recommendations.
  • The fact that grades given are not consistent – and I used the example of the same inspector, inspecting on the same day giving myself and my co minder the same grade for leadership and management – when my co minder did not lead or manage the setting, and this was acknowledged by the inspector.
  • The issue around recent comments (including in my complaints documentation) that   inspectors guidance is only for guidance and therefore if it says Must or Should – it did not mean that. Gill disagreed and said if it says Must or Should in ANY guidance document – including that for inspectors  – then that is what it means.
  • The number of complaints received by Ofsted about inspections. Gill said that Ofsted think that for every complaint they receive there are about 12 others that don’t complaint – I said that I thought that there were many more than that. I spoke about how much courage it takes to put in a complaint and how much time it takes to navigate the complaints progress. Gill made me aware that she personally understands; this because in the past she has not complained when maybe she should have – and it was because  she was worried about the consequences of doing so. This was very reassuring to me that some one in Gill’s position had personal experience of an inspection that was not 100% satisfactory and also the has experience of not complaining when she should have done so. It can be easy to sit in our settings and say ‘They (Ofsted) don’t understand’ when clearly in this case Gill does understand; and I suspect that many within Ofsted do understand

Gill was keen to hear about the malicious complaint that was made against me, and the visit of the compliance inspector. She wanted to know the compliance inspectors name and also if I would have preferred a full inspection at the time. I replied that I would because for a honest, passionate provider like myself if is stressful to have to wait for inspection, and I would prefer a judgement to be made on how it really is. I commented that delaying inspections meant that those who are not as honest, not as passionate about getting it right every day – would have time to hide things / change things / borrow things and therefore present on inspection day a far from normal day. Gill allowed herself a small laugh and said – yes, I think the same and I know such things go on. I suggested she took a look at social media where some openly say they are due an inspection and ask for support with resources, policies, and other documentation.

 

Gill gave an outline of the work the she is doing with Nick Hudson without going into detail – it is extensive and will cover all areas from inspectors tool kit documentation, to actual inspections and what looking for as evidence,  and to the complaints process, to guidance documents  – in other words the whole lot.

Gill said that the time scale is to complete by Sept 15 – so a huge piece of work that Gill and Nick are talking the time to do thoroughly.

As we all know the EYFS 12 (and therefore the reviewed EYFS 14) is due to complete its cycle, and a new framework to be in place by Sept 16 – and so although Gill did not specifically say so, it is easy to imagine that the two will be brought together and designed to work together

Of course I cannot possible comment on if the end result of this review of Early Years inspection and regulation frameworks will be ‘fit for purpose’ and will be an improvement on what is currently in place but ……

……. when I heard Gill Jones say things like ‘We clearly have a lot of work to do’ and ‘We would hope that our inspectors were professional and did the job that they are paid to do – but clearly a few do not’  … I have hope – in fact a lot of hope that there is a light shining at the end of the tunnel and from my discussion with Gill, I also have faith that she will do her best to ‘make things work’ and to improve things so that inspections will do what they are actually supposed to do and drive up quality and improve outcomes for children.

Naturally being me and as I have spent two years of my life in relentless campaigning about childminder agencies – I had to mention them. I asked Gill if I could help her with her work around the framework for the inspection of childminder agencies and spoke about some of my personal concerns. Gill responded to say that yes in the future – but at the moment things were still firmly within the remit of the Government.

Finally Gill ended our discussion by thanking me for my time and said that our discussion had been very useful to her; she asked if I would send my report to her to aid her work – and she said that from that she would also be able to access my whole complaint documentation. I have since done this – and also with permission sent my co minders report. She wanted the name – spelt correctly  – of the inspector – which she now has.

She said she was sorry that she could not do anything about my personal inspection experience, but I knew that before I contacted her – and engaging with Gill Jones was never about me personally but was to try and work in partnership with Ofsted to benefit us all.

Gill also asked if I would mind if she stayed in touch and contacted me as when needed, to support her and Nick in their work.  I think you will all know what my response was …………………………………. YES, PLEASE DO GILL.

 

I hope that like me, you are reassured that there is a lot going on behind the scenes and that although we should continue to raise awareness of our inspection stories through the Ofsted Big Conversation; and we should also complain when our inspections are flawed in any way – that we should also acknowledge that Ofsted are listen and are being proactive in listening and in addressing our concerns –  and even if like me you feel personally that no one is listening and you are banging your head on the wall – that in terms of the bigger picture – things are happening.

I would like to publicly thank Gill for her time and for listening to my concerns. I hope that I have opportunity in the future to engage with Gill (and maybe Nick as well) as they continue with their massive task.

 

 

3 responses to “Telephone Discussion with Gill Jones – Ofsted’s Deputy Director of Early Years

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  1. Wow what a positive sounding experience, that’s made me feel more positive about our childminding futures 🙂

    Angeline Hargreaves
  2. We have recently had a dreadful experience with Ofsted / Tribal and followed the complaints procedure. The inspector didn’t read our SEF, look at our website or change her line of enquiry when she was told that she wouldn’t be able to see a tracking period for said EAL child, as they had only just started at our setting and we had only collected baseline and parental assessment. She didn’t speak to key workers, in fact we still do not know which children were tracked! In our toddler room she didn’t look at any of the children’s learning journeys or next steps, planning or continuous provision. There wasn’t any feedback throughout the inspection and feedback at the end of the day was subjective and comments/recommendations weren’t evidence based. I had to argue the point that we were prepared for EAL children as we had a member of staff who was qualified to teach English as an additional language, in fact she could speak Polish the same as our EAL child. This was deemed as not sufficient, she want to she a magic wand (interpretation sen tool) which she couldn’t name or suggest where to source it).

    Nothing was upheld within our 10 page report, the inspection was completely inadequate but worse of all the inspector lied and was totally unprofessional and lacked knowledge of the Early Years. An inspection of this nature is very damaging!

    We strive to be outstanding and all staff at our setting are committed and passionate.

    • I am sadden to read this – yet another setting who like me states that the inspector lied and who as a setting are not believed when they tell the truth.

      Have you fed back this information to the Ofsted Big Conversation group?

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