Ofsted Big Conversation meeting 13.3.2015
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    Default Ofsted Big Conversation meeting 13.3.2015

    At the meeting, among others, was Gill Jones deputy early years director from Ofsted. I was very lucky to be able to ask Gill a number of targeted questions on behalf of members of the Childminding Forum and Facebook group. I was also able to ask Kath, a senior HMI from Ofsted, for further guidance.

    We might not have the answers we wanted to hear BUT we do now have quite a few answers to outstanding questions which we can take forward and make a difference in the future…

    Working with other settings (or not)

    I spoke to Ofsted about the issue of childminder downgrades because other settings won’t work with us. Ofsted said that if you have evidence of trying to share with other provisions but you are up against a brick wall… and your inspector sees your evidence and still gives it you as an action, challenge!

    Stage 1 is to challenge the inspector on the day; stage 2 is to write a letter to Prospect / Tribal saying something like 'how can I achieve this if the other setting won't work with me?' We have been assured that all stage 3 complaint letters will be read by a senior Ofsted HMI in your local area / region (this is something new) and if they start seeing trends like this happening then they will action it by, for example, retraining inspectors or checking that the other providers who refuse to work with us are following the EYFS.

    Reporting serious accidents – what’s happened to the guidance?

    All the guidance documents have been removed from the Ofsted website and Gill Jones advised that they are NOT coming back. When there is an accident we need to record it, reflect on what happened, risk assess and if necessary make changes to provision, resources, equipment, staffing etc to keep children safe. Then, as part of the risk assessment, we need to ask ourselves whether the accident was serious enough to report to Ofsted or not. If we think that it was serious enough (what the EYFS calls in requirement 3.16 as a ‘significant event’) then we need to contact Ofsted and let them know – either by phone 0300 123 1231 or email enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk.

    We can't second-guess what Ofsted will consider to be ‘significant’ and they will not give us a list or offer further guidance because the EYFS is the rule book we need to follow. This means (my take on the conversation) that it will be up to the inspector on inspection day to decide if it was significant or not – so best practice will be to tell them about the accident and let them decide if they need to know or not.

    Historic actions / recommendations / inspection outcomes

    If you were inspected even 3 months ago the inspection you had was very different from the inspections childminders are getting today. All inspectors including Prospect and Tribal have been re-trained by an Ofsted HMI – both in how to deliver Ofsted inspections and in how to write the new-style one page inspection reports. This means that Ofsted are confident inspectors are better trained, inspections are improving in quality and the type of actions we are getting should be more relevant.

    If mistakes are made Ofsted state that we must follow the complaints procedures – stage 1 – speak to the inspector; stage 2 – complain to Tribal / Prospect; stage 3 – complain to Ofsted.

    Previous information suggests that for every complaint received by Ofsted, there are 10 providers who mutter and move on. Sometimes they complain on groups and forums but they don’t tell Ofsted that there was a problem with the inspection. The future is in our hands - if we don't report unfairness things will not change.

    Ofsted clarifies the situation on variations & guidance

    Gill Jones was very clear that we are NOT getting our variations guidance back … she said that we must use the EYFS to decide what we can and cannot do with variations. Think about what Ofsted say when childminders ring the phone line to ask advice about variations – risk assess, check with parents, check floor space etc but Ofsted will not give specific advice. It is up to each childminder to follow the rules of the EYFS and it is up to Ofsted inspectors to decide if the childminder is acting within the law of the EYFS and whether they are managing the variation well.

    Ofsted assure us that Tribal and Prospect inspectors are all being re-trained by Ofsted and will make better judgements – but if we are not following the rules of the EYFS they will action us.

    So... let's look again at what we are told in the EYFS. We have requirement 3.30 – ‘Exceptionally, and where the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained, changes to the ratios may be made.’

    This makes it clear that variations can only be for exceptional circumstances. Note that the wording of the EYFS does not talk about ‘new business’ or ‘continuity of care’. However, it is generally accepted that new business is not normally an exceptional circumstance. If a provider were to try and justify new business as exceptional they would need a very good argument in their risk assessment - because new business is primarily about earning extra money and that's not exceptional or in the best interests of the child and children already in the provision.

    Then we have requirement 3.42. ‘If a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and Ofsted inspectors or their childminder agency that the individual needs of all the children are being met, exceptions to the usual ratios can be made when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or when caring for their own baby.’

    This requirement states the only reasons (according to the statutory document that is the EYFS) why variations can be organised. If providers arrange a variation for any other reason they will need to justify it very carefully and clearly show that each child's individual needs are being met.

    What isn’t in the EYFS? As we have already noted, it doesn’t mention continuity of care or new business. Ofsted will not comment on that wording because the Eyfs does not talk about it - they are not in a position to give advice on or re-write the Eyfs... so, if it does not say you can do something in the EYFS, admin on the Independent Childminders Facebook group and Childminding Forum will always advise caution.

    We are, however, grateful for this letter from DfE which clearly says variations for continuity of care are acceptable. The letter was requested by admin (Rick) on behalf of ALL childminders and can be used by any childminder who has issues with Ofsted inspectors questioning variations related to continuity of care -

    DfE email re continuity of care.pdf

    Paid for inspections

    If paid for inspections do go ahead, Gill Jones advised that they will not be immediately after the inspection the provider is trying to improve. In the future providers with a ‘requires improvement’ grade will be re-inspected within a year – Gill said that paid for inspections won’t happen much quicker.

    Providers complain that they lose funding if they get a ‘requires improvement’ or ‘met’ grade in the new ‘no children on roll’ inspections. Ofsted state that there is nothing in the DfE funding guidance to state that LAs must withdraw funding and providers should challenge their LA to justify their decision.

    Further questions

    On behalf of members, I asked Ofsted for the following information –

    - Do pre-registration childminders have to buy insurance? Ofsted are getting back to me…

    - Do all emergency contacts need first aid and a DBS check? Ofsted advised that if, in an emergency situation, you make a judgement call in the best interests of children and an inspector disagrees with you – then you should go through the complaints process so they find out about it and can monitor what is happening.

    - How can we find out about individual Ofsted inspectors and the type of things they are looking for? There isn’t anything on the Ofsted website but the company Watchsted have started monitoring childminder inspections and there is a ‘search by inspector name’ option - Watchsted - Watchsted - Maps.

    - Can we have longer than 24 hours to question inspection reports? This is especially important to childminders who don’t necessarily check their emails every day. The answer from Ofsted is no, this is not going to change – if you have been inspected you will know a report is on its way and should keep checking until it arrives. However, don’t wait for the report if you want to complain about the inspection.

    The main messages I got from the meeting…

    If you have a complaint or issue after an inspection, tell the inspector on the day... then report it to Prospect / Tribal... then report it as a stage 3 complaint to Ofsted. Ofsted cannot change things if they are not made aware of the problems!

    Variations rules are in the EYFS – if you do anything different to what is stated in the EYFS, you have to be very clear about how you justify your decision. Your inspector will be checking that outcomes for children – teaching and learning – safety etc are not affected as a result.

    We are not getting our guidance back… full stop.

    They might not be the answers we had hoped for - but we do now have answers to a lot of outstanding questions and we can hopefully start to move forward

  2. #2
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    I clicked 'like' sarah but its more 'thanks' - I don't actually 'like' a lots of the answers , but at least we know!

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    Thank you Sarah. Things are clearer now if not exactly what we wanted to hear!

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    Thank you Sarah, your work is much appreciated

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    Thank you so much for giving up your day off yesterday and for challenging Ofsted on so many points - it's very much appreciated xxx xxxx

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    Quote Originally Posted by loocyloo View Post
    Thank you Sarah. Things are clearer now if not exactly what we wanted to hear!
    Sarah, well done for your post. It is very much appreciated and I for one am really glad to read the changes highlighted.



    Thanks again,

    L

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    Thank you Sarah. You are a trooper

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    Thanks for your never ending support.

    I think the official stance from the forum to the question about can I increase my numbers must always be caution and no. At an inspection, the defence for over minding cannot be 'Sarah Neville' or 'my forum' said it was okay

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    Quote Originally Posted by sarah707 View Post

    In the future providers with a ‘requires improvement’ grade will be re-inspected within a year – Gill said that paid for inspections won’t happen much quicker.

    D
    Sarah, do you have any thoughts on what the implications might be for anyone like myself with a Satisfactory inspection with regards to when we might be reinspected? Is it a year for us as well? Or as my 'Satisfactory' inspection was in September 2013 and pre-dates the above, will my next one more than likely still be years away?

    (I try to be ready every day for an inspection, anyway, just in case I get a knock at the door. )

    Thanks,

    L

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    Thank you, Sarah for this and for the very detailed feedback to the questions asked and for taking the time to attend and report on the meeting. I am one of the people who asked if the guidance documents could be asked of Ofsted if they could be brought back as I found them useful although this shows they are not (sadly as I did think they gave an insight into how Ofsted were interpreting the EYFS at inspection) it is good to have a clear answer and to be able to move forward.
    Many thanks, again.

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    Thanks Sarah, good update.

    On a positive around the inspectors training: I searched for my inspector following the call. Could only find one recent cm inspection and a few nursery so I asumed she was nursery mainly. I googled her name and came across a couple of extremely negative blogs about her!

    At the end of the inspection I raised the lack of reports with her and she said she had been completing training. I was the first day of the intro of the new style report and we discussed this and aspects of her training and when she gave me her assessment of me she said she had not given an outstanding in 2 years. My LA link confirmed this, quoting that I did well getting such a good report from her!
    I have been following the reports in my area and she has since given 2 more Outstanding - in fact there seems to me to be an increase in this grade - along with inadequates in my County.
    Now, I am interpreting this as partly a result of training that has raised all the issues that Childminders have been questioning and more guidelines to ensure fairness across the inspections. Of course it is also that the childminders have embraced the changes and raised their practice and knowledge and perhaps were not being recognised for this before!

    But my point is that I think this particular inspector seems to have ' improved' with her training. Let's hope this is reflective across the inspectors!!

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    Thanks Sarah all your work on our behalf is appreciated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lollipop kid View Post
    Sarah, do you have any thoughts on what the implications might be for anyone like myself with a Satisfactory inspection with regards to when we might be reinspected? Is it a year for us as well? Or as my 'Satisfactory' inspection was in September 2013 and pre-dates the above, will my next one more than likely still be years away?

    (I try to be ready every day for an inspection, anyway, just in case I get a knock at the door. )

    Thanks,

    L
    For what it's worth, Ofsted stated at our last steering group meeting (Yorks/Humber) that "satisfactories" were now their priority grouping for inspections? Always worth writing to them (not email,) & if you have a good reason for wanting reinspection quickly (eg offering 2 year funding) & can get LA support so much the better?

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    Quote Originally Posted by k1rstie View Post
    Thanks for your never ending support.

    I think the official stance from the forum to the question about can I increase my numbers must always be caution and no. At an inspection, the defence for over minding cannot be 'Sarah Neville' or 'my forum' said it was okay
    Absolutely thank you Kirstie!!

    We try our best to get answers for members and have Ofsted pretty much on speed dial but at the end of the day it's not our businesses that are at stake if we advise wrongly either ...

    So admin will never second-guess what an Ofsted inspector might say - we will always quote the Eyfs and if necessary advise caution

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    Quote Originally Posted by lollipop kid View Post
    Sarah, do you have any thoughts on what the implications might be for anyone like myself with a Satisfactory inspection with regards to when we might be reinspected? Is it a year for us as well? Or as my 'Satisfactory' inspection was in September 2013 and pre-dates the above, will my next one more than likely still be years away?

    (I try to be ready every day for an inspection, anyway, just in case I get a knock at the door. )

    Thanks,

    L
    As you have been inspected during this cycle (Sept 2012 - Aug 2016) and you got satisfactory before the rules changed it's unlikely they will prioritise you during this cycle ... unless something happens to push you up the list such as a complaint.

    However, we never know when they might turn up so it's good to stay up-to-date

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    Thank you for that great feedback Sarah...Gill Jones is obviously doing the OBC rounds at the moment after she attended the London OBC Chairs meeting recently.
    I am looking forward to those minutes when they are published.

    Ofsted withdrew several Factsheets ...including the one on the ratios for CMs no 120117..the reason given to the DfE is as follows and I quote:

    'With regards to Ofsted’s withdrawal of Factsheet no. 120117, our understanding is that this was removed from their website as part of the Better Regulation Enforcement review'

    With regards to the numbers we can care for I do think that Ofsted and DfE need to talk to each other on this subject.

    We have agreed that the Forum will follow Ofsted's guidance and I will continue with pursuing the DfE...as they are the authors of the Statutory Framework which is Ofsted's duty to understand correctly.

    Also thank you for posting the reply to Rick from the 'Ministerial and Public Communication Division' ...I could not see the date on the letter and that is important because the advice from Ofsted changed recently.

    The reply I received is from the person at the DfE in charge of 'Early Years and Curriculum Teaching' and dated 6 March ...if anyone wishes to make further enquiries that is a point of reference.

    For as long as the 2 depts. continue to provide contradictory guidance we will never be sure what we can do or not.
    One thing though is that Ofsted, at times, does give advice to those cms who ring up for support on ratios...either they can do so and give it to anyone or they should reflect why they help some and not others.

    We also know that several cms have been inspected with more than 3 under 5 and passed the grade...so all is a bit confusing.

    In the meantime all cms can do is be very careful when they want to increase their numbers....until such time we can get the EYFS tweaked.
    No point in the DfE saying they have no plans to do so when so much is changing, including Safeguarding, and the current EYFS does not reflect those at the moment.

    On we soldier with our efforts!

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