Last Friday saw Sir Michael Wilshaw explaining how OFSTED were going to change the current ‘Satisfactory’ grading for nurseries to ‘Requires Improvement’, in line with schools. Sadly, unlike schools, he is not going to make it a truly level playing field by giving us a few days notice of the inspection, so that we can ensure that the Manager of the setting is available to show the inspector around and give the best possible impression on the day. On its own, this change to words doesn’t unduly bother me, but recent experiences of inspections against the revised EYFS framework have shown the system to be pretty inflexible and inspectors are tied to a very rigid marking schedule, which leaves them little room for professional judgement. For example, if an ‘action’ is given in any area of the nursery, the final grading will automatically be only ‘Satisfactory’. In a large nursery there is always the chance that one member of staff will not perform well in front of an inspector, or there may be one room which has areas for development, yet the whole nursery will get the lower grade.
What did concern me as part of Friday’s announcement was the statement that to raise quality OFSTED would inspect more often and those setting that didn’t move from ‘Satisfactory’ to ‘Good’ would be de-registered much more quickly. Inspection alone only highlights areas for development, it doesn’t help settings to get better. At the same time, Local Authorities are going to lose their advice and support role for nurseries and there is yet to be any information about how, indeed if, this will be provided by anyone.
However, yesterday’s article in The Daily Mail really took the biscuit! Ms Truss seems to have fallen in love with all things French and the latest assertion is that French children have lovely manners – determined solely by their nursery – whilst our 2 year olds are an unruly bunch. Her article makes interesting reading;
As I spend most of my time in our nurseries, watching our very hard working staff teams plan meaningful activities which stretch and challenge the children, from babies up to pre-schoolers, I find this so disappointing. The political point scoring which has invaded what we do is tiresome and unfair on the staff who deliver high quality care and work so hard to help children to develop their own interests. I do not know how many toddler rooms Ms Truss has been in, but would be happy to show her some purposeful, engaged children in our nurseries, who can all say hello to visitors and behave exactly as 2 year olds should – including wanting to play with passion and not sit quietly at a desk. Come on Ms Truss, you can do better than this for Early Years.