The Ofsted Big Conversation by Sarah Neville 

26th September 2016

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ofsted-big-conversationAs part of my commitment to raise the profile of childminders and support colleagues I am the childminder representative on the Ofsted Big Conversation North West steering group. I recently attended a meeting with Ofsted along with nursery providers (single and multiple sites), after school clubs and representatives from other areas of the early years sector.

The Ofsted Big Conversation is a national campaign group and the North West steering group organises regular meetings with Ofsted to share information and feedback on the mood of the early years sector. It was originally set up in response to the angst many providers felt during complaint led inspections some years ago. The relationship between Ofsted and the early years sector has, over time, improved considerably since those dark days and our meetings are always positive and worthwhile.

We talked about a range of subjects during the meeting, from the issues many providers are currently having with DBS checks (Ofsted are sympathetic but DBS checks are not within their remit)… to the importance of providers feeding back issues to Ofsted to enable them to improve the service they offer… to planning for our next North West open meeting on 15th October in Bolton when the Ofsted lead for English is our keynote speaker.

We know that many providers are often reluctant to inform Ofsted about issues during inspections: for childminders the concern is often that they will come back to re-inspect and things will somehow be made worse. Ofsted are keen to reassure us – they want to be open and transparent about the inspection process. They want providers to keep telling Ofsted about, for example, problems with inspectors and say that it does make a difference: for example, inspector training has been adapted over the years directly as a result of provider feedback.

We learned that Ofsted are very positive about the changes that are happening on 1st April 2017 when all inspections will be brought back in-house. They have systems set up to ensure as seamless a transition as possible and ask us to bear with them if there are any teething problems. One of the main aims of the change will be to drive up inspector performance and inspection quality as Ofsted will have direct supervision of all inspectors. We reported that the sector as a whole is positive about this move to bring inspections back in-house and we are looking forward to continuing to work with Ofsted through the transition process.

Ofsted were keen to share details of their new report ‘Unknown Children: destined for disadvantage?’ which talks about how we might work together with parents and other agencies and professionals across the early years sector to bridge the gap for disadvantaged children.

If you are not involved with the Ofsted Big Conversation in your area of the country, now is as good a time as any to find out who is running your local group and to speak to them about joining. It is a very worthwhile organisation and has led to a much better working relationship between Ofsted and the early years sector.

Ofsted are not the enemy – inspection is our one chance in 4 years (or more) to show off all the amazing work we do with the children in our care – and we need to embrace the opportunity to work with the inspector. Know your children and know your safeguarding and child protection procedures; stay up-to-date with latest information and take every opportunity to attend training or engage with continuous professional development; do your very best every day and focus your mind-set on raising outcomes for every child… your inspector will see the passion you have for your job shining through.

If childminders have any concerns they are welcome to contact me and I will point them in the right direction for support, help or advice. Thank you.

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