Changes in early years inspections

Written by: Helen Frostick | Published:
Good reception: Young pupils at St Mary Magdalen’s Primary School in south London (Image: St Mary Magdalen’s/Ruth Mulholland Photography)

From April 2017, Ofsted is taking direct control of early years registration and inspection. Headteacher Helen Frostick looks at what lies ahead and signposts some guidance and advice

A message has been given by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted chief inspector, that from April 2017 the inspectorate will be taking Early Years’ Registration and Early Years’ Inspection “fully under its direct management”.

A video clip relaying this message can be viewed on the Ofsted YouTube channel (see further information).

Sir Michael, in his address, explains the context of this development in that in March 2017 the current contracts with Tribal and Prospect as providers of inspections come to an end. This offers the opportunity to revisit the Ofsted process, but doesn’t mean that there will be a change to the 2015 Common Inspection Framework. Sir Michael acknowledges that change can bring uncertainty but argues that it can also bring “exciting new opportunities”.

He adds: “We want to engage widely to ensure a successful transition in April 2017. The first years of a child’s life are absolutely crucial. If we get the early years right, we pave the way for a lifetime of achievement. If we get them wrong, we miss a unique opportunity to shape a child’s future. I am confident that the new arrangements will help us to improve the lives of children and young people in our country.”

To prepare, school leaders can view several helpful clips on the YouTube channel that offer some pointers when focusing on the quality of provision in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
The EYFS sets down seven areas of learning. However, the organisation of the provision is the responsibility of staff. Schools enjoy certain freedoms to establish their own good practice.

The EYFS is critical in setting down the foundations for subsequent learning through the rest of the primary school years and beyond. The children, if schools get this important start right, have a lifetime of achievement ahead of them to enjoy.

Among the video clips, practitioners can view good practice films. For example, one shows five different EYFS settings that have impressed Ofsted. The “Right from the Start” video case studies are highly recommended. The key features of these schools include:

  • Careful monitoring of the needs and progress of the children.
  • Careful tracking of each and every child at three points across the school year to evidence progress, colour-coded to show the three terms.
  • Involving parents from the outset.
  • Keeping learning journals as evidence of significant milestones in learning and ensuring that the Learning Journals facilitate a two-way exchange of information between parents and teachers.
  • Child-initiated learning with adult-focused activities for teaching and monitoring purposes.
  • Focus on the Prime and Specific areas of learning.

Another short clip shows a school that has recently moved from “good” to “outstanding”. What these schools emphasise is the crucial importance of evidence of Attainment on Entry in order to tell the story of progress. Also do all stakeholders tell the same story about Attainment on Entry in your school? Can you show Attainment on Entry for all cohorts of children from all of their many starting points?

A further clip shows EYFS practitioners using puppets to teach across many of the seven areas of learning. The children relate well to the puppets and with careful thought the teachers put the puppets into situations that the children might find themselves in.

The children can put their own worries onto the puppets; for example helping a puppet find a peg can ease their own first day worries in any number of given situations. If the puppet doesn’t have a friend, they can relate to that and help them.

It is a powerful mechanism as the children put themselves into the teacher’s position and act-out solutions that will help them as they grow up and perhaps face similar situations. It has been proven that boys relate really well to male puppets.

Ofsted inspections from April 2017 will still judge under the following headings: leadership and management, quality of teaching and learning, personal development, outcomes for pupils and the effectiveness of safeguarding.

However the focus on EYFS brings a useful opportunity for schools to evaluate the quality of provision in this crucially important first phase of the educational journey.

Further information

  • Message from HMCI (Sir Michael Wilshaw) on early years inspection arrangements, Ofsted’s YouTube channel:
  • Early Years videos, including best practice examples, Ofsted YouTube Channel:

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