Ofsted inspection feedback

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This feedback has been sent to Ofsted by childminders who want to engage with them in conversation about our inspection framework and outcomes.

It will hopefully act as the starting point for a useful dialogue... PLA have kindly taken it to Ofsted on our behalf. It is not copyrighted - it is not signed by an individual - it is the work of many. I hope you find it interesting and a useful starting point if you want to write to Ofsted or if you are attending an 'Ofsted big conversation' meeting

To whom it may concern

The following information has been provided for the ‘Ofsted big conversation’ by childminders from across England. It has been collated to give an overview of childminder concerns because we want our voices to be heard and added to those of pre-schools and nurseries who are also very worried about the current Ofsted inspection regime.

Childminders are keen to engage with Ofsted about our inspection process. We are finding that more and more often Ofsted (and associated) inspectors give us post-inspection actions which are not linked to the statutory requirements of the EYFS or Childcare Registers and which leave us confused and, in some cases, resentful.

The majority of childminders want to stay registered with and individually inspected by Ofsted but we want a fairer and more open system of inspection where we are listened to and our status as home workers is better recognised. Most of us do not have assistants to do paperwork for us - we work on our own - we comply with the requirements - but we cannot comply with requirements if we are not told what they are!

We recognise that inspectors are always going to be subjective in their judgements because they are looking for different things - but we are asking for more consistency so that we can better prepare for inspection and know that we are working to the highest standards all the time.

The majority of childminders want to be part of the Ofsted inspection process in the future because we know that parents value our inspection grades and often use them when they are making decisions about where to place their children. However, to get the most out of the inspection process, we need to know exactly what is expected of us during our inspections.

Here are some of the inspection outcomes which have recently confused childminders and which reflect what we are asking. They have been gathered from a wide cross section of childminder Ofsted inspection reports and clearly show the inconsistent nature of our inspections.

Health actions -
All childminders are committed to keeping children healthy. We work hard to make sure that they are fed healthily, wash hands, are offered water etc. We get confused when actions seem to be plucked out of thin air rather than relate directly to the requirements of the EYFS or Childcare Registers -
• A childminder was down graded for not wiping the table before lunch, even though the inspector saw her wiping it after lunch.
• For snack I offered hummus, tzatziki, carrots, celery and fruit. My action was that I should give children more choice for snack.
• I didn't get an outstanding because I didn't have a downstairs toilet. When I explained that I was in a military quarter and didn't get a choice of what house or layout I was given, I was told that I should have thought about that before I started minding and that I should have my own house because that would stop it being a problem. All the children were in nappies at the time.
• I cared for a young child who physically gagged if offered water. The inspector said I must give him water instead of juice - I replied that I had discussed this with the parents and they preferred him to have juice with his meals rather than go home dehydrated. The inspector did not agree.
• My inspector didn't like baby wipes - she wanted cotton wool and water. The child was 18 months old with extreme allergies and I used wipes mum provided. My report states that I need to be more hygienic with changing nappies.
• I was down graded to satisfactory as the inspector said I hadn't washed my hands after doing a nappy. She clearly had not heard me but refused to believe me when I assured her that I had washed them when disposing of the nappy.
• My inspector asked my daughter if she was asked to wash her hands before eating - she replied no. My daughter was 6 and didn't need to be asked - she did it automatically. My report reads that hand hygiene is poor.

Safety actions -
Again, safety is something the majority of childminders take seriously and we are confused when we receive actions which do not relate to the EYFS or Childcare Register and which often seem to be an inspectors’ pet subject rather than something that actually affects the children with whom we work -
• I was given an action for having toothpaste in my bathroom on a high shelf which I had considered in my risk assessment and decided was out of reach of children.
• I got a comment that I didn't carry out fire drills, even though I only had a non walker / talker. I said what is the point of me scooping him up and standing across the road - she agreed it’s madness but I need to practice. It is not a requirement of the EYFS 2012 to do fire practices.
• I was told I needed a rug in my hall to go over the ripple that was in the carpet. She said the ripple was a trip hazard (even though it disappeared when you stood on it). I feel a rug is a bigger trip hazard than the ripple.
• I was told I needed to do a more comprehensive visitors log because a dedicated book with name, date, time in, time out and reason for visit was not enough. It is not a requirement of the EYFS or Childcare Registers to have a visitors book.
• One child was sitting on a small seat underneath the window. The Inspector said that this was a safeguarding issue as one of the children could climb out of the window - there are window locks in place. The inspector implied in my report that it was a low level window but this is not true.

Working with other settings -
This is a serious issue for a lot of childminders. The Ofsted inspectors guidance tells inspectors to use their judgement when grading childminders on working with other settings if they do not have children of an appropriate age, but many inspectors do not follow their own guidance -
• I was graded lower on working in partnership with other settings. At the time I didn't have a setting to work with.
• I only look after little ones and was told I couldn’t get outstanding because I couldn’t show evidence of working with other settings.
• First inspection - only EYFS children were twin girls in full time reception but came to me in holidays only. Had them for their first 3 days in half term then first day of next school holiday (their 4th day - I hadn't seen them for 7 weeks). Ofsted asked me how I would communicate with outside agencies for them, so I explained how I would do it if it ever occurred - but because it hadn't been written down (I had permissions to) I was given it as a recommendation.
• I was told I needed to improve my working in partnership with other settings, despite being highly praised for it.
A number of childminders also note that they know nurseries and pre-schools graded outstanding who have absolutely no intention of working in partnership with them. This type of inconsistency causes further confusion.

Resource actions -
Childminders have been aware for some time that Ofsted inspectors are relying too heavily on Development Matters guidance when making judgements. We are delighted that this has been addressed recently by Ofsted. However, we are also concerned about inappropriate and inconsistent judgements related to our resources, especially when we only care for very young children and actions are given which relate to older children -
• I had an action to have more resources showing same sex families. When I asked the inspector for advice of where to source them she had no idea... also how she felt it was appropriate as I only cared for my own son (18 months) and a 12 month old at the time.
• My action was that I didn't do enough multicultural activities or resources - I had been minding 6 months and had celebrated Easter, Eid and Diwali in this time with pictures as evidence. I also had multicultural dolls, jigsaws and clothes etc.
• My action was to get a boy doll. I fail to see how that will help me to deliver high quality care and education.
• My only action was to plant more seeds with the children.
• I was told to put wall stickers in my bathroom for the minded children. I have just had my bathroom re-fitted, why would I do this?
• A colleague was told she was not yet outstanding because she did not have windmills in her garden.
• I look after children whose parents are from China, Africa and Russia. All the children were born in England and the parents choose not to teach the children their native language. Ofsted told me I have to have signs all over my house in these languages.
• I was graded satisfactory and my action was a lack of age inappropriate resources. I had a 3 year old and 18 month old who wanted to colour in. I got colouring books and crayons out. Both loved it but the inspector said that it was inappropriate as the 18 month old could get upset if she couldn’t mark inside the lines. I questioned this and explained that 18 month old idolised 3 year old and if I had given her a different activity she would been very upset - but it made no difference.
• I am from Germany, my husband is from Africa, I care for children from 3 different countries and I have lots of resources chosen from children’s home lives. I was told I didn’t have enough evidence of diversity.
• I was told I didn't have enough mark making equipment despite the children having two drawers of pens, paper, craft etc. They also drew on the windows and one with their juice (putting finger through it to make patterns). The inspector only came in playroom once so obviously missed this. I made a written complaint about the fact the drawers are low enough and marked with labels and pictures and also gave the inspector evidence of previous mark making-pictures of activities but I was not successful.
• I was told to promote ICT more. I had a good range of ICT toys but at the time of my inspection the only child I had was 5 months old and it was her first week with me.

Self evaluation actions -
The Ofsted self evaluation form is not a statutory document, yet a large number of childminders are downgraded for not completing it, even when they do other evaluations from their Local Authority. This has been clarified in the Ofsted inspectors handbook, yet many inspectors do not appear to follow their own rules -
• I am not yet outstanding because I 'need a system in place to target training opportunities in areas of practice that are identified for improvement'. This confuses me because I don’t have any concerns except that comment.
• I was told that I had to do my SEF. It’s not a requirement and I already do a local authority evaluation. I questioned it but was told that I had to do it.
• I have been minding since 1999 and always got good. 2 years ago I got downgraded to satisfactory because I hadn't done the SEF.
• I was marked down for self evaluation as I hadn’t done my SEF on first inspection, even though it’s not compulsory. At the time I had been minding for 6 weeks.
• I had written a very comprehensive SEF but my inspector said she hadn’t had time to read it. I was gutted.

Documentation actions -
Unless Ofsted give us clear guidance about exactly what documentation they expect from each childminder, inspectors are always going to be able to pick on something we do which is not to their personal liking and use it as an action -
• I was marked down because my children's files were too neat and would apparently intimidate parents.
• I was told to put my next steps on a separate sheet of paper from my observations so the inspector could see at a glance what each child was working on without having to spot yellow highlighted 'next steps' comments on my observation sheets.
• I was graded unsatisfactory because I had sent children's files home for parents to look through and didn't have evidence on the premises for the inspector during my unannounced inspection.
• I had been working with a child for an hour (my first child) when I was inspected. If the inspector had given me unsatisfactory Ofsted would have come back within 6 months and I could have raised my grade by showing lots of evidence. However, the inspector refused to do this and I was graded satisfactory because I didn’t have any learning and development evidence for the child. I have been stuck with that grade for 4 years now.

The inconsistent nature of inspector comments related to documentation (in this case the use of attendance registers) is demonstrated very clearly in the following childminder actions -
• I was given an action that parents had to sign my attendance registers;
• My inspector asked me if I had registers but didn’t want to look at them;
• My inspector said the register didn’t need to be signed by parents, just filled in accurately with the times.
• I was told that I was compromising safety because my attendance register was not signed by parents.

Learning and development actions -
Childminders are aware that Ofsted are focussing on children’s learning and development much more of late. We want to comply with the requirements - but we often find ourselves in the difficult situation of never being able to please, especially as we are not given clearer information about what we need to do to gain a higher grade -
• I was told to promote diversity more (and was downgraded because of it) by talking to the children about it more... my oldest child at the time of the inspection was 18 months of age.
• I was looking after 3 young children whose mother had just died and we did our best to get through the weeks, visiting mum’s grave, managing behaviour, cuddling through tantrums and upsets etc. The children made excellent individual progress but because I had not recorded their learning and development through this period well enough for the inspector (I had done scrap books and focussed on supporting the children emotionally) I was left with a poor report and satisfactory grading.
• I was not yet outstanding because I didn't have a visual timetable.
• I got an action because when I was feeding a baby I wasn’t giving the 3 year old enough attention even though the child and I were talking and the child was helping me hold the baby's bottle.

Outside play actions -
It seems from these actions that childminders cannot win! -
• I was not yet outstanding as my garden wasn’t "inspiring enough". There is plenty out there but we were just getting over the snow so no, it didn’t look all bright and inviting on the day of my inspection.
• My inspector was concerned that we spent too little time indoors because we like to play out.
• I was told I was 'not yet outstanding' because I didn’t have a covered outside area.
• My inspection was just after all the snow at the beginning of this year and my garden was a muddy mess. I got an action for not having it accessible at all times. I did explain that I have a park at the end of the road a 5 minute walk and visit regularly but that was not taken into account.
• I was told my outside activities were 'not robust enough’. During the inspection it was snowing, the bark in the back garden was solid with ice patches and a new child had started that day who was crying. Despite me proving what my normal day was like (pictures, plans, journals etc) and the children played hide and seek, danced etc in the house, I was downgraded.

Actions that do not fall into any of the categories above -
There are many Ofsted post-inspection actions that confuse and concern childminders. However, perhaps the first ones on the following ‘others’ list are the most worrying because they tell us that we are facing an unfair inspection system similar to an exam where we are told we cannot get an A grade on our first attempt - however hard we work -
• As it was my first inspection the inspector said she could only give me satisfactory - please note that this comment has been repeated by far too many childminders.
• The inspector walked into my house and said she didn't give outstanding before she even looked around or talked to me.
• My inspector told me she never gives childminders outstanding.
• At my last inspection I was told I couldn't be graded outstanding as the EYFS hadn't been out long enough. My actions - she said she couldn't find one and asked me what it should be! I said I was changing my all about me form to include children's interests in more depth so she put that.
• Due to family commitments I was only minding 2 children from reception class before and after school. The inspector was with me half an hour, told me most areas were good but she was not calling back to see me with the children after school so would have to mark me down to satisfactory.
• I was told I couldn't be outstanding because I don't care for families with English as their second language. What am I supposed to do if I am not approached by these families?
• My action was to have pictures from children’s homes and their family members. They are not keen so the action is hanging over me.
• My action was that I missed a learning opportunity to allow the 3 year old to make his own lunch. The thing was he did! She just missed it because she had her nose in her laptop. She didn't tell me the action, or my grading at the feedback time. She said she had to go away and think about it, as there was nobody in the office for her to discuss my case. She phoned me back after a 24 hour wait and I got outstanding. The inspector said I had had to wait because she couldn't think of an action - I know the action was made up.
• My action was to sort my filing system out. It was dealt with the next day by buying new storage and putting it all together. However, it stays on my inspection report for 4 or more years.
• We were having a tea party and the inspector said I should have asked if the black baby wanted a drink.
• My action: ‘develop further the processes for ensuring all children are encouraged, for example, when all three younger children are present in the more focused- type activities.’ This sounds reasonable until you put it into context which was I sat two of the children at the table with play dough because the third child had vomited all over myself and herself - I therefore did not interact with the other children closely due to the fact that I was busy cleaning up the other child and myself, as well as contacting her mum to come and collect her!!! Did the inspector feel I should have stayed covered in vomit with the other child on my lap at the table in order to interact with all the children in a focused activity? I did complain about this action but after fighting it for over four months and going round in circles I felt it easier to let it go and focus on my next inspection.
• My dining room used to be round the corner from my kitchen (not visible), so I bought a small table and chairs to give toddlers lunch and snacks in there (supervised and safe). My inspector asked where I ate my lunch and when I replied I sat with them, she said 'I don't believe you'. I demonstrated that it was possible but she still didn't believe me.
• My inspector told me she wasn't interested in the degree I was undertaking - only my actual certificates.
And possibly the most worrying comment of all - a childminder was told that she didn’t get outstanding because she did not have the ‘x factor’.

Childminders are asking Ofsted for more consistency in their inspections. We have been given the EYFS 2012 and the Childcare Registers and told that these are our statutory documents, yet when you read the above inspection actions none are directly linked to the requirements.

How can we be successful and continue to offer high quality care and learning for children if we are inspected without being given a proper indication of what we need to do to gain the grades we deserve? Most of us do not want to join agencies - we want to continue our Ofsted registration but we are concerned that inspectors will simply down-grade us and then tell us that we need to join agencies to raise our grades. We do not want this to happen.

Thank you to PLA for taking our concerns to Ofsted and thank you to Ofsted for (we hope) reading them. We are keen that our comments are used as a starting point for a useful dialogue with Ofsted during which they listen to us and change inspections to better reflect our special home-from-home status.

Written on behalf of childminders throughout the country
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