More changes. More paperwork. More goalposts being moved. Yup, I can hear you all grumbling about it now, just like I did nearly a year ago. And just like many of you, I had my own say on Ofsted’s ‘better inspection for all’ public consultation (which ran from 9 October to 5 December last year). The report of the responses to that consultation was published in February this year which was followed by pilots throughout the spring term. Put simply, the Common Inspection Framework is one single framework that covers anything from early years settings to FES colleges and practically everything in between and it puts a far greater emphasis on curriculum and safeguarding. This means that whether a college or a Childminder is being inspected, Ofsted’s judgments on outcomes will be made on the same basis, using the same terminology and will mean the same thing across the board. This is where some of you will insist that you shouldn’t be treated the same because you’re not a teacher, right?
But it’s actually nowhere near as daunting as you might be expecting it to be. Speaking of her experience of the pilot for the new inspection framework Sarah Leonce felt that it makes Childminders “look a lot more professional” and gives us “recognition for what we do”. But I’m not going to gloss this over. There’s some terminology we really do have to get our heads around – ‘teacher talk’ I like to call it. So here goes, curriculum and safeguarding it is.
What do they mean by ‘curriculum’ exactly?
The word curriculum may strike many of us as rather ‘schooly’ but if we think of it instead as a learning programme with a planned sequence of learning experiences it makes it a little bit easier for us to think EYFS framework. And it is this framework that is our curriculum.
curriculum = learning programme = EYFS
So, when Ofsted come to report on the curriculum the inspector will be looking at how successfully we plan and manage our learning programme – that is the EYFS – so that all children get a good start and are well-prepared for the next stage in their education.
And it’s perhaps no accident at all if this all seems a bit too ‘schoolified’ to your liking. The ‘schoolification’ of early years was foretold several years ago now and was realised in 2013 with the government’s decision to send underprivileged 2 year olds to school. The signs were there guys but we were all too busy getting our heads around 2 year old progress checks and the prime areas of learning to notice.
But planning, though essential, doesn’t have to be arduous or time-consuming or even written down for that matter. No amount of fancy pants planning can guarantee us an outstanding grade but having good evidence showing children’s starting points and the progress they’ve made in their learning over a period of time is a pretty good start. And this evidence will be the same day to day observations and assessments you’ve been doing for years now.
These observations show how TJ has gone from exploring her favourite nursery rhymes in a book, on her own, and showing interest in sing and sign sessions to belting out her favourite rhymes, through a microphone, with a friend. And all within the space of 3 months. To get a feel of what it’s like to be a child in our settings, our inspector will use all of the evidence they have seen to evaluate how well we meet the learning and development requirements (section 1).
Since the outcomes’ judgement will focus heavily on the progress children make, given their starting points, it’s vital that we know where each child was last month, where they are this month and where you plan for them to be next month. Get your head around this and you’re half way there.
So what’s new about safeguarding then?
Whilst safeguarding is not a graded judgement itself, our inspector must report (under leadership and management) whether our policies and procedures are effective or not and, if they’re not, this will naturally affect our overall effectiveness. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that attending safeguarding and child protection training every 3 years will be enough because this is actually the absolute minimum that would be expected. Those considered to be the more effective practitioners will be clearer about their statutory responsibilities and will push these beyond minimum standards. Check out the training being offered by your local safeguarding children board. Much of it may be free although typically a charge will be made for non-attendance. And keep a log of your training – not just what training you have done but how many hours you’ve clocked up and, most crucially, the impact that training has had on your practice because better practice makes for better outcomes for children. This shows that you did not simply turn up for the training but that you actually reflected on what you do and whether there is room for improvement. Your log might look something like this but remember, once you’ve identified areas for improvement, you must then put them into action else the whole point of training simply goes up in smoke. If you’re striving for an outstanding grade, this is a step in the right direction.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that this wraps up the whole Common Inspection Framework because it doesn’t but… it’s a really good start and I’m sure you’ll agree that so far there’s nothing to be getting our knickers in a twist about.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=22&v=SXuA_TIOYYU Nick Hudson, Ofsted’s former National Director, Early Years talks about changes to inspection
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnqNTdqQ2q8 Sarah Leonce, Childminder, talks about her early years inspection pilot
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwbeNvTXJuw RIGHT from the start early years good practice films: assessment 1 of 6
http://www.learningtrust.net/media/2631863/Assessment-Guidance-for-Settings.pdf identifying children’s starting points
http://www.foundationyears.org.uk/files/2012/05/progress-matters.pdf Reviewing and enhancing young children’s development (an old document but useful nevertheless)