Feedback from West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation on 5th October 2018   1 comment

Pre Amble

Once upon a time there was a childminder who was passionate about all things early years; and who became involved in many committees doing her best to represent her fellow childminders, the early years sector – and to speak up for children and families.

She gathered a bit of a reputation for her detailed feedback about the meetings and conferences that she attended. By 2016 when she announced her retirement from registered childminding she thought she would build on her advocating and campaigning in order to make a bigger difference to children, families, childminders, early years setting – and indeed to  society.

Readers will recognise that I am talking about myself above, and regular readers will know that in early 2017 I became very ill.

Blogs stopped, conference and meetings almost stopped and were few and far between, and those I did attend did not result in a feedback blog.

Although far from well, I am trying to pick up the pieces, and when possible financially and travel wise, I am starting to attend events, starting to rebuild professional relationships – and starting today trying to resume my blogging.

Now this blog does come with a health warning, because although I did attend the West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation, I did not take notes (nothing unusual in that) but my memory is not as good as it used to be – could be partly an age thing, and partly a lack of use thing over the last 20 months, but the biggest impact is the long term use of excessive amounts of prescribed morphine. And yes I am still taking quite a lot every day just to get through each day.

So please remember this is an opinion blog and contains my opinion and my personal recall of the event. Readers need to refer to other records of this event and check facts for themselves – even though I am clear in my own mind that this is a fairly accurate recall of what happened and what was said.


I need to comment on the fact that it was for two reasons that I was able to attend this West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation. First was the reasonable cost at £15 and with careful management of my disability benefits I was able to afford to attend. Second reason was the offer from my colleague Esther Gray to drive me to the venue (if I could get as far as her house). Luckily Esther’s house is within the range I am comfortable to drive to, and so I gratefully accepted her offer as the Venue was a) too far for me to drive to, and b) as in Birmingham out of my comfort zone.

The Actual Meeting

On the journey Esther and I had a bit of a personal and professional catch up as we had not seen each other for around 6 months. I always enjoy the professional discussions with Esther as we think alike on so many things despite me being a former childminder and her being former Ofsted compliance person.

We arrived in good time, and were able to park very near the door thanks to my new Blue Badge. We were very impressed with the efficiency of booking in, both by the venue downstairs and the OBC team upstairs. I am pleased to report no issues with lifts, disabled toilet or access in general.

We grabbed a welcome cup of coffee and separated to mingle. I spotted a few practitioners I knew, and was very pleased that despite my absence from the sector, senior current and ex Ofsted people recognised me, and made a point of speaking to me. It gave me hope that if health allows, I will be able to pick up the pieces. I also spoke to members of the OBC team and those there with stands / due to do presentations – and Mel- who I know – from the Pre School Learning Alliance.

We were provided with an overview of the day and an  update about what had happened since the last meeting.

I should make it clear that I am not going to attempt to remember who said what, when, or even to remember names – hopefully in the future my brain will regain some of its ability.

So the following will be a rather jumbled up record of the bits that I thought important and the bits I actually remember.

Risky Play

Ofsted did a presentation about risky play, stating that they want children to take part in risky play, they actually do want them to climb trees and so on. It was recommended that we took at look at the Health and Safety website because there are so many myths. Ofsted said this also applied to things that were claimed to have come from them as simply not true and that people needing to apply common sense and realise that  when they make judgements or write actions it will be related to the setting being inspected and not about general practice. More about this a bit later.

We were asked to look at a set of photo’s in small groups and rank them according to the risk. My group very quickly came to the conclusion that really there was no risk BUT it did depend on knowing the children well and adult supervision. This was Ofsted’s view as well.

Among the questions posed to Ofsted was one about a setting where they had been told in a recent inspection to remove their stoned area. Ofsted of course would not comment on this particular inspection, but did say the inspector would have considered the risk to the children.

Suggestions for possible reasons  for saying the stones should be removed

The age of the children attending and staff supervision

The risks in the whole area

The staff’s knowledge when questioned about why this sort of play was beneficial to the children, how to manage the risk and so on. Ofsted said staff  who just said things like ‘ The manager decided’ or ‘We was just told to do this’ is not good enough and due to staff’s lack of knowledge Ofsted could consider the risk to be too high.

Without actually being involved in the inspection, Ofsted said it was difficult to give the reasons why this decision had been made – but there would have been reasons.

Presentation on Progress with the new Inspection Framework

We were shown graphs and it was explained that although progress was being made around number of children with a good level of development there was still more work to be done. The differences in different areas of the West Midlands were highlighted and what the concerns were in Ofsted’s eyes.

The new inspection framework is due to come into force in September 2019, and Ofsted are gathering views from meetings such as this one, as well as through a more formal consultation later on. I have to admit I zoned out a bit because I get annoyed about national data because it does not focus on individual children and what is a Good Level of Development for that child. In my opinion expecting all children to reach the same level at any given point in terms of age, or school year is unrealistic and again in my opinion sets some up to feel failures when actually they are just not ready  – and for a huge number of reasons.

However, I did pay attention when I heard it mentioned that the new inspection framework would have less focus on data gathering and would reduce workload for practitioners, settings and inspectors. I hope this is the case and will follow Ofsted’s journey towards implementation of this framework and of course take part in consultations.

One worrying fact was the lack of mention of mental health and child / parent / practitioner well being – and this was raised during question time. There was also a request to bring back the focus on Birth to Three for our youngest children’s well being.

Some in the room also felt the online SEF should be reintroduced to allow whole setting reflection.

Question Time with Ofsted

I have already mentioned a couple of the questions asked, so may as well cover the other ones that I can remember

Q. What is the maximum time between inspections?

A We try to carry out all inspections in a timely manner and we are on target to complete all within the inspection cycle (and this was shown in one of the presentations). However if you are inspected at the beginning of one inspection cycle and at the end of the next inspection cycle, it could be up to 8 years.

So the answer is the maximum length of time between inspections is 8 years.

Q Is there a time limit of doing Baseline?

Penny comment – I took this to mean gather each child’s starting points

A. No Ofsted do not set a time frame. We would expect you to gather information as soon as possible but if there is a reason why this has not happened then you need to explain to the inspector why you have not done this. A child not settling could be a reason BUT Ofsted would expect you to tell us what you do know about that child.

Q (Follow on from in the room) So a setting policy to delay recording starting points for all children would not be acceptable?

A. In general no,

Q If a setting is registered for say 24 children, could they invite all children on roll (say 40) for a party?

A Yes, you do not even need to inform us, you just have to risk access and keep all the children safe. Of course if something did go wrong Ofsted would want to see your risk assessments and reasons for your judgements.

Q Do we have to wear plastic aprons and gloves for nappy changing and serving meals?

A (There was a bit of discussion around this) Ofsted do not dictate if you should wear aprons or gloves, it is up to you to risk assess and make your own informed decision. If you want to, you can – but it is not an Ofsted requirement.


There were other questions asked, and I believe the OBC team will send out all responses from Ofsted to attendees – including the questions there was not time to ask.

Other Presentations

There was a presentation from Early Years Nutrition Partnership  on early years nutrition and the help that is available to settings. I found this quite interesting even though I no longer have a setting, because I do have early years aged grandchildren. You can google them – and one of their supporters is Pre School Learning Alliance (Hence why Mel attending)

The other presentation was from Imogen Edmonds from Redwing Solutions on recruitment and although I don’t need to recruit anyone, it was an insight into ways people can recruit the right staff without spending a great deal of money.

Exhibitors included the two companies above as well as Kate Moxley  Consultant and Foundation Focus, so plenty to look at and people to chat to.


I know I have missed quite a lot, so apologies for that, but as my first attempt at recalling an event in a long time I am pretty pleased with myself (and who knows maybe I can now think about doing some catch up blogs – especially the one about my own networking event in May 18).

As the person who was responsible for the very first West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation in September 2013 (link to blog I wrote at time for those interested ) I am delighted that the conversation is still going on, and that the current OBC team are doing such a fantastic job of developing the meetings and engaging with Ofsted. I feel proud that the acorn I planted 5 years ago is doing so well.

And looking at the concerns raised in 2013 we have come along way – but further improvements could – in my opinion –  be made

Posted October 6, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

One response to “Feedback from West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation on 5th October 2018

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Pingback: Just what is a ‘Good Level of Development’ | Penny's Place Childminding

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: