Ofsted Inspection Outcomes

Last month Ofsted published its quarterly statistical release on the outcomes of early years and childcare inspections conducted between 1 September 2008 and 31 December 2014 (Ofsted 2015)*. Whilst such a document does not necessarily appeal to a wide audience, this one contains some interesting information and indicates the effect of Ofsteds current approach to these inspections.

The period covered begins with the introduction of the EYFS in September 2008, and includes the 2012 revisions along with a number of amended regulations that set the standard which all early years providers must meet (Ofsted 2015 p.3). In November 2013 Ofsted replaced the satisfactory judgement with requires improvement, aiming to strengthen the impact of inspection and improvement through more frequent inspection and monitoring of early years provision (ibid p.3). Whilst that may be the case for some providers, MSA has noted that several schools and settings have only recently been inspected after a period of four or five years, having been rated good or outstanding at their previous inspection. Our perception is that such settings often receive lower grades than previously. This may be due to their relative lack of inspection experience or to factors such as a lack of awareness of how to present themselves for an inspection, or just what they are going to be judged on.

Whilst the Ofsted paper goes into various regional differences, the eye-catching points for MSA are in the documents charts. To take two such charts and relate their figures for childcare on non-domestic premises (which form the majority of MSA members type of provision (ibid, charts 1 and 2 p.6):

OutstandingGoodRequires improvementInadequateOutstanding + good
Rating at their last inspection between 2008 and 201416%70%13%1%86%
Rating when inspected between September and December 20149%65%18%8%74%


Clearly something has happened to Ofsted inspections. An 8-fold rise in the percentage of settings judged inadequate suggests a major shifta tighteningin Ofsteds judgements. Similarly a near halving of those rated outstanding cannot be put down simply to provision having become weakerespecially when all the EYFS training and support work is taken into account. Also if the requires improvement and inadequate figures are added together the last four months of 2014 shows 26% of settings in these categories whereas the overall figures for the 2008-2014 period are just 14%that is, just over half the later figures. This clearly suggests that all the training and support for the EYFS has possibly failed rather spectacularly.

Ofsted goes on to look at each of the four judgements made on all early years settings (i.e. these are summary figures not broken down into types of carers or premises) and again these make interesting reading when the data for each judgement on each table is set against the corresponding data in the other (ibid, extracted from Tables 2 and 3 p.8 and 9). This takes account of the revision to the wording of the overall effectiveness judgements made in 2012.

(a)     Overall effectiveness: the quality and standards of the provision:

OutstandingGoodRequires improvementInadequate
Rating at last inspection 2008-1412%70%16%1%
Sept to Dec 20149%68%17%7%


(b)     Quality of leadership and management:

OutstandingGoodRequires improvementInadequate
Rating at last inspection 2008-149%69%20%2%
Sept to Dec 20149%68%17%7%


(c)       Contribution of the provision to the wellbeing of children


OutstandingGoodRequires improvementInadequate
Rating at last inspection 2008-1410%70%18%2%
Sept to Dec 201411%68%14%6%


(d)     How well the provision meets the needs of the children who attend.

OutstandingGoodRequires improvementInadequate
Rating at last inspection 2008-149%71%19%2%
Sept to Dec 20149%70%16%5%


Whilst there are some changesthe percentages rated inadequate for all judgements have risen very significantly, albeit still a low percentage in each casethe other figures show relatively more limited changes, especially for outstanding or good.

This begs another questionwhy do the first charts show more significant changes? For this, I think we need to look slightly more widely at Ofsteds inspections. School inspections follow one of two main sets of requirements: maintained schools have to follow the National Curriculum and meet the requirements of various other regulationssafeguarding and the SEND Code of Practice, for example. Independent schools have to follow the Independent School Regulations, many of which directly or indirectly refer to the various other regulations, but which together give a more codified set of requirements than are set out for maintained schools.

By contrast, the EYFS sets out the Learning and Development and assessment requirements and also sought to define the welfare requirementsat least, as they stood in 2012. These have far more detail than those codified for any schools, and in some cases have already been overtaken by subsequent sets of requirements (such as for safeguarding, SEND and Britishness) or by other developments (I include the 2014 version of the EYFS which refers to the safeguarding policy and procedures having to cover specifically the use of mobile phones and cameraswe have had a couple of cases where parents have sought to claim that the use of iPads to take photographs is not included in the policy and is therefore admissible!).

Moreover Ofsted is moving towards a Common Inspection Framework whereby similar judgements will be made for all institutions from baby day care through to further educationclearly an issue where the sets of requirements are defined differently for different providers. This seems to be leading to some inspectors coming to judgements on overall effectiveness which are broadly in line with the views reached in the four sub-judgements, but for which direct evidence based on the statutory requirements of the EYFS is limited. This situation seems at times to be exacerbated by Ofsteds practice of having reports reviewed by office staff to check that the judgements match the report text and vice versa. Some colleagues have complained that the published report does not match what they were told in the inspectors verbal feedback, with critical judgements being developed from limited inspection evidence.

Ofsted is currently piloting revisions to its early years inspection framework and judgements. We are monitoring this work and will update our members as soon as Ofsted reaches decisions on the outcomes. Meanwhile it seems clear from members reports that there is a greater emphasis on the quality and impact of leadership and that settings need to demonstrate how Britishness is being dealt with.

*Ofsted Official Statistics Release Early Years and childcare inspections and outcomes 26 March 2015, www.gov.uk.

Martin Bradley, Chairman MSA