Ofsted plan to bring in paid-for inspections that will cost around £1,300 to £2,500. Ofsted will prioritise settings with a background of ‘satisfactory’ or ‘requires improvement’ grades who want a paid-for inspection. Currently, early years settings with this grade can be locked out of access to funding for two-year-olds, therefore this would be a profitable process for them in the long run.
However, there are many concerns raised about the introduction of these new paid-for inspections. Many believe that it could defer inspectors from carrying out their statutory duty. June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) and spokesperson for the Ofsted Big Conversation (OBC), believes that people can have paid inspections, but if Ofsted need to keep to their condition they will need to meet their time scales. She says ‘We should not have to pay-for inspections that are overdue and all resources should be directed into getting everyone their inspection on a timely basis.’
Catriona Nason, director of consultancy Daycare Doctor, backed Ms O’Sullivan’s thoughts, questioning ‘how Ofsted will ensure paid-for inspections are not prioritised over inspections that are overdue’.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance (PLA) welcomes this change and says it has been a “long called for option”. However he believes that concerns will be raised if Ofsted are “planning to set the cost of paid-for inspections at the level suggested” as it would constrain smaller settings.
Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, believes that childminders and smaller settings are going to struggle with the costs which are ‘extremely high’. However, Clare Roberts, chief executive of Kids Planet day nurseries, a group of 12 settings, said that problems would arise if the cost was too low as everyone would have one.
Ofsted also revealed at its forum that it is looking to give nurseries the same amount of notice as it does schools for inspections- half a day, but they still have the right to carry out no-notice inspections. Ms Roberts told Nursery World that receiving notice of an inspection would be “beneficial when a nursery manager is on holiday or away from the setting”. However, Ms Nason believes that if the nursery is given time then they can hide things if given notice.
As well as moving the post-registration inspections to 30 months, Ofsted is considering cutting registration visits at new nurseries who Ofsted are familiar with as having a strong history of safeguarding.
Mr Leitch said he is “extremely concerned by any plans to relax the current approach to registration visits”.
On the other hand, Ms Roberts disagrees and believes it is a good idea, especially when opening or re-registering a number of settings in such a small time-scale. Another topic discussed was Ofsted’s proposals for a new framework for the inspection of maintained schools, academies, further education and skills providers and registered early years settings.
Better Inspection for All is the new framework in which settings will be inspected every three years, against four criteria: Leadership and Management; Teaching, Learning and Assessment; Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare; and Outcomes for children and learners with greater emphasis on Safeguarding and Curriculum.
The sector is in agreement with the broad principles of the inspection framework, but there are concerns about how as inspections become shorter, it will be interpreted into a single set of inspection criteria.