Ofsted Schools and Early Education Deputy Director Gill Jones explains the mechanics of Ofsted visits going forward…
These have been difficult months for all of us who have devoted our professional lives to the development, safety and well-being of young children.
For many people the world paused in March. Now we are starting to see, if not a return to normality, then at least the gradual acceptance of a new normal.
At Ofsted, we are also adjusting. Our regular inspections were put on hold. However, we have continued our regulatory work and, since June, we’ve been doing face-to-face registration visits.
From this month, we will start to make visits to some early years providers who were judged to require improvement or be inadequate at their last inspection.
As the government has disapplied the learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage until 25 September, these visits will be to those providers that have been given safeguarding and welfare actions. For most interim visits we will call the day before the inspection.
My early years regulatory inspector colleagues will visit these places to see if they have met the safeguarding and welfare requirements. After this, they will write a short summary that will be published on our website - giving reassurance to parents that those requirements have been met.
Please be assured that these visits will be done sensitively and with the safety and health of staff and children in mind. We will observe social distancing and follow the setting’s arrangements for safety. We’ll be happy to have the main conversation outside – even as winter weather approaches.
For schools and colleges, we will be having collaborative conversations. Our early years interim visits will be a little bit different, given our regulatory role, but we will also be helping you to get back on your feet.
This is a new and temporary arrangement. I am confident that it will work well, but I’ll be keen to hear your feedback.
When this temporary form of visits will end obviously has to be kept under review, but we are aiming to resume our education inspection framework inspections in January 2021.
We will prioritise those we inspect first, depending on when a provider was last inspected, the inspection grade and whether or not a provider has yet to be inspected.
Indeed, I was heartened at an Ofsted Big Conversation webinar in July to hear that some childcare providers want to be inspected, to show that they are now good or better.
Personally, I am looking forward to having curriculum conversations, once the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) has been reinstated and after a transition phase of a few months.
e will want to find out how leaders decide what it is their children need to learn and why. We know that what an early years setting does through its EYFS curriculum and interactions with practitioners can make such a difference for children.
And that brings me to the new-look Development Matters which, as I type, is itself in development, although I expect it will be published soon.
If the EYFS is the skeleton of the early years curriculum, then the new Development Matters will be the flesh on the bone – the substance that will be helpful to those of us who work for the development of young children.
We can expect there will be more emphasis on developing children’s communication and language through all the areas of learning and much less emphasis on data collection.
It is important to honour, treasure and value young children’s learning and development through the early years. It has its own intrinsic worth.
But if the last six months have taught us anything, it’s that our economy and society cannot function without a thriving early years sector.
The work that you do is so important.
In all circumstances, we will continue to follow Public Health England’s expert guidance.
And, as you do, we will act in the best interests of children – helping them to achieve their full potential in the years ahead.
Gill Jones is Ofsted Schools and Early Education Deputy Director.