More reflection from Penny about inspections – and some ideas from outside the box and indeed turning the box up side down (and jumping on it!)   4 comments

Even if I say so myself – I am a reflective practitioner and I constantly reflect on …….. everything!

This includes reflection on things that I am not directly responsible for like Government policy and Ofsted matters – which is why of course I am an active campaigner – when I see, read, think about things that I consider not to be in the best interests of the children …… I have to say / do something.

And so in the very early hours of this morning I found myself reflecting on Ofsted inspections – my own experiences, others experiences that I have heard about through my involvement with the Ofsted Big Conversation, my discussion with Gill Jones, and my many discussions with friends, colleagues, and others from the early years sector.


So first a THANK YOU to all of those who taken part in these discussions with me about Ofsted inspections – I am sure that as you read this you will think – ‘ah I discussed that with Penny’ , but I am also sure that you will think ‘but we did not discuss that’ – because as part of reflection you should listen to, and take on board others ideas – put them in a mixing pot (your own brain) and then come up with your own personal view which will be informed by others but based on your own views, principles, vision, ethos – and so unique to you.

Of course we are all also part of a team – either in our settings, or as part of a membership organisation, or a trade union, or as part of the wider early years sector – and so it is vital to share those reflections – and to reach agreement within whatever ‘grouping of people’ you are aiming to work with and therefore to agree with – so that your personal reflection aids the reflection – and potentially changes to the practice of whatever group it is you aim to work in partnership with.

Therefore, my reflections (which I will come to in a minute) are for all of those that I work with to consider and to throw into their own reflection ‘mixing pot’. I am of course hoping that Ofsted – and in particular Nick Hudson and Gill Jones read this blog and reflect on my ideas because as we all know Nick and Gill are currently conducting a review of Early Years inspections  – and maybe, just maybe the time is right to think outside of the box and indeed to turn it over and jump up and down on it – and in doing so knock all the ‘silly bits’ out.

So my reflection about inspections;

I have done lots of reflection on this before – and blogged about and wrote letters and articles about it ……………………….

…………………………….. however this is some different reflection because instead of trying to adapt the inspection box so that it works better – I am thinking wider and drawing on all my own personal experiences as childminding network coordinator, quality assessor, practitioner and volunteer – plus those aforementioned discussions with others.


So to start at the beginning – ‘What makes quality assurance works?’

In my opinion – Involves all, is on going, is checked by those with specialist knowledge – frequently and if possible without notice, and is based more on practice than on paperwork.

I can almost hear Nick and Gill responding – saying loudly – ‘YES we agree – that is what Ofsted inspection is about’

Well … Ofsted inspection should be about that – but at the moment it is not


Here then are my ideas – for consideration – as in no way is this a ‘final version’ just something to be thought about – and if appropriate used to start the ball rolling on what Ofsted inspection / quality assurance could look like post 2015.

Education should be taken away from politics – and a board of appropriately qualified people should be  employed (and with sector specific  experts and volunteer input), to ensure that everyone’s views are taken on board and the best research and knowledge used to define the education plans.

  • The education plan should be in place for at least 10 years – with only minor adjustments each year following a proper reflection / evaluation schedule. There is too much messing about with / complete over haul at the moment . If proper consultation takes places there should not be a need for this constant changes to policy and practice.
  • Although lasting for 10 years the process before the implementation of the next 10 year plan – should be started after 6 years of implementation to allow for full consultation, data gathering, proper trails and evaluation
  • Any changes to the  10 year plan should only be for educational reasons – not political reasons.
  • Education should be not be used as a political bargaining point nor should those who do not have the expertise in education be allowed to interfere in education
  • A budget FIXED for the 10 year cycle should be agreed on – with a contingency budget available
  • The education plan should cover all stages from early years to end of formal school – and all fit together as  a continuous plan


FULL Ofsted inspection should take place ONCE in a TEN YEAR Cycle in line with the 10 year education plan and should be unannounced for all settings / schools

  • This will allow data from those inspections to be fully analysed, and for all settings to have had an inspection under that framework, and will of course follow the 10 year education plan
  • The fee paid to Ofsted would take into account the fact that it would be one full inspection every 10 years – and that settings would also be paying a annual amount to the Quality Verifying company
  • This inspection should focus more on an over view of things and should involve checking all the statutory documents are in place, and involve observation of practice and discussion with practitioners and managers, and parents, and most importantly the quality verifier (see below) and at least 10% parents – in person or via phone.
  • Ofsted would issue the grade  but not recommendations – these would come from a 3 way discussion and AGREED between setting / school, the quality verifier and Ofsted inspector  – and by phone if needed, within a week of the inspection. The report would then be written, circulated for approval and published one week after draft report circulated.
  • An Ofsted approved questionnaire should be completed by all settings / schools once every 12 months – and a separate but coordinating one sent to all parents – with a require 75 % return rate. These should be sent to the quality verifier  to be read and a result summary sent to Ofsted and the setting / school.
  • The SEF would be dropped as it relies on the honesty of the person filling it in – and the time they have available – and their IT skills and their confidence in presenting facts in writing . Some do this well, some don’t – but at the end of the day – it is the hands on practice that makes a difference to children – not if can fill in a SEF.


Role of Quality Verifier

  •  ALL settings / schools should have a annual visit from a quality verifier – who will write a report on practice seen and discussion had;  and send this to Ofsted. Where possible (unless left the company) this would be the same person
  • This quality verifier would be from an approved list agreed by Ofsted, but could include LA staff, membership organisation staff,  private company staff and others – all of whom would receive direct training by Ofsted on the report side of things, so reports were in a standard format. However training on observations and quality assurance would be provided by whoever the quality verifier works for.
  • The Quality Verifier would be selected and paid for by the setting – in the same way as any other quality assurance is paid for – but at a universal fee set by the government  and taking into consideration the number of hours each visit should take (so would vary depending on size of setting / school
  • To ensure good practice each company supplying quality verifiers would be ‘quality assured themselves annually  by a verifier from another company doing a joint visit  to a setting / school AND by one joint visit to a setting / school with an Ofsted inspector (on a % of number of visit undertaken basis)
  • The fee paid for quality verifying would  be inclusive of the fee to remain registered with Ofsted ( so no need to pay Ofsted separately)
  • The people doing the quality verifying would not give grades or make judgements – they would just record facts – and each school / setting would be required to read and sign the report before it is sent to Ofsted.
  • Having said that to ensure safeguarding of the children if a quality verifier visited a setting and saw practice that needed to be reported for safeguarding reasons – they would call Ofsted while still in the setting – and in hearing of  a  setting staff member. Ofsted would talk to both the quality verifier and a member of the setting staff. All would be recorded and Ofsted will decide if a visit to the setting / school  is needed OR if the appropriate for the setting / school to agree actions there and then – and then for the quality verifier to re visit to ensure have been implemented and that practice on day of next visit is as it should be.



As I have said – in NO WAY is this a ‘final version’ of my ideas – I just want to start discussion around inspections and therefore making changes that will work.

I think the above ideas would work as there would be more consistency – less personal opinion – remember the quality verifier is not going to give grades or recommendations, and the Ofsted inspector would have to have their recommendations agreed by the setting and the quality verifier

As the quality verifier (or at least someone from that company) will have visited NINE times between Ofsted inspection and produced a report – and reported any safeguarding concerns – everyone should be confident that the Ofsted grade will be truly reflective of everyday practice – and not the personal ‘snapshot’  opinion of one person, once every 3, 4, 5 or even 6 years.

As a result there should be less complaints, – and indeed any complaints made direct to Ofsted should involve a discussion with the quality verifier as they will know the setting well – and be able to give details about the setting.

By insisting that Ofsted talk to at least 10% of parents – even if  by phone the will gather a the views of those using the school / setting first hand.

The completion of the Ofsted approved questionnaire by parents and settings should be used to gain an understanding of daily practice and to aid reflection.

Ofsted would be able to concentrate on their inspections – while parents and settings / schools can be reassured that through the unannounced visits of the  quality verifier that quality is maintained all the time.

Those that I have spoken to would welcome regular quality inspections and would be prepared to pay for it.

However the biggest selling point about this idea – is that everyone – Ofsted, quality verifier (and the companies they work for) and the setting / school would be working together ALL THE TIME – to improve outcomes for children – not to tick boxes.


Your thoughts please!

You can disagree and add your own ideas through the comments box, or you can take my idea and add your own reflection views on it.

Let’s get talking about this – and let’s work with Ofsted to improve things for all of us.

4 responses to “More reflection from Penny about inspections – and some ideas from outside the box and indeed turning the box up side down (and jumping on it!)

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. This sounds like a much better idea than what we have now ,however I would like whoever the quality veryifer is to perhaps attend sessions (such as toddler/childminder groups,toy library’s and support sessions ) so you don’t /can’t feel like you are “on show” or performing in your own home and where the pressure to be perfect is built up over years! Then they could see you amongst other childminders /parents and watch how you work from day to day ( not a performance) . I for one am not very good at “selling myself” in person and have a form of dislexsia so find the process as stands enough to almost drive me to quit childminding altogether,I would much rather be judged on my actions and day to day performance ! Some great ideas here though!!!!

    Angeline Hargreaves
    • Thank you for your comments Angeline – and food for thought. Maybe this could be an option for some – although of course not all cms attend such sessions – personally I don’t on a weekly basis – but on a termly basis Messy play sessions). Also group settings would not do this. A solution might be when the quality verifier turns up unannounced – they go wherever you are going – and so would include group settings going to forest school, or on the summer outing and so on. As you say – quite rightly – it should reflect everyday practice.

  2. Before Ofsted we had the local council officer come out once a year. It worked because she got to know you a bit and although it was scary as you worried that everything was ok you weren’t petrified as we are now. I like the idea of her coming to playgroup if that’s what we are doing that day Would it be necessary though to then have Ofsted visit as well? I can see why they would have to visit schools but maybe we could have a continuous improvement plan like a work book each year to show the verifier and work on a rolling grade from year to year. I’m sure the verifiers could be trained to “up” the grade or maybe then call in Ofsted to confirm or if the setting was to be downgraded. I like the ten year plan idea, I think the government are messing around too much with changing things every couple of years. We all know nothing changes really, it’s just the words that change and the paperwork each time. I can remember too when Ofsted used to send out questionnaires for parents to fill in before an inspection and I can honestly say that the inspector was never interested in reading them. I would have thought that they would have been some of the most important documents, the parents opinions.

    • Thank you Shawn – and some interesting thoughts which I hope others will read and reflect on.

      I suppose my idea of the Quality Verifier is that they don’t set the grade – Ofsted do – and then the verifier just ensures that when they visit the setting is working within that grade – but I do like the idea that a quality verifier could call in Ofsted if the setting was demonstrating that they had made improvements – and so will be adding that to my personal thoughts.

      Totally agree that you would have thought that parents views were essential. Interestingly when I took part in the pilots or EYFS 12, the HMI who carried out that mock inspection DID read the parent questionnaires. Whereas the inspector I had for my inspection earlier this year glances at one questionnaire but did not read any of them – but claimed she did and even gave made up info during the complaints process to back up her statement that she had read them. So from that I take it that parents views are important and should be read by inspectors. Shame that they are not always read and in some cases don’t read but claim they have.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: