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The Common Inspection Framework: what it means for you

More changes. More paperwork. More goalposts being moved. Yup, I can hear you all grumbling about it now, just like I did nearly a year ago. And just like many of you, I had my own say on Ofsted’s 'better inspection for all' public consultation, which ran from 9 October to 5 December last year.

The report of the responses to that consultation was published in February this year which was followed by pilots throughout the spring term.

Put simply, the Common Inspection Framework is one single framework that covers anything from early years settings to FE colleges and practically everything in between and it puts a far greater emphasis on curriculum and safeguarding.

This means that whether a college or a childminder is being inspected, Ofsted's judgements on outcomes will be made on the same basis, using the same terminology and will mean the same thing across the board. This is where some of you will insist that you shouldn't be treated the same because you're not a teacher, right? 

But it's actually nowhere near as daunting as you might expect it to be.

It’s also important to remember that each remit does have its own handbook so the uniqueness of each is not lost, and you wouldn’t get an FE inspector inspecting an early years setting and visa versa.

Speaking of her experience of the pilot for the new inspection framework Sarah Leonce felt that it makes childminders "look a lot more professional" and gives us "recognition for what we do".

But I'm not going to gloss this over. There's some terminology we really do have to get our heads around - 'teacher talk' I like to call it. So here goes, curriculum and safeguarding it is.

What do they mean by 'curriculum' exactly?

The word curriculum may strike many of us as rather 'schooly' but if we think of it instead as a learning programme with a planned sequence of learning experiences it makes it a little bit easier for us to think EYFS framework. It is this framework that is our curriculum.

Curriculum = learning programme = EYFS

So, when Ofsted come to report on the curriculum the inspector will be looking at how successfully we plan and manage our learning programme - that is the EYFS - so that all children get a good start and are well-prepared for the next stage in their education.

But planning, though essential, doesn't have to be arduous or time-consuming or even written down for that matter. No amount of fancy planning can guarantee us an outstanding grade; however having good evidence showing children’s starting points and the progress they've made in their learning over a period of time is a pretty good start.

This evidence will be the same day to day observations and assessments you've been doing for years now.

These observations show how TJ has gone from exploring her favourite nursery rhymes in a book on her own, and showing interest in sing and sign sessions, to singing her favourite rhymes out loud, through a microphone with a friend. All within the space of 3 months. To get a feel of what it's like to be a child in our settings, the inspector will use all of the evidence they have seen to evaluate how well we meet the learning and development requirements (section 1).

The outcomes’ judgement will focus heavily on the progress children make, given their starting points. That’s why it's vital that we know where each child was last month, where they are this month and where you plan for them to be next month. Get your head around this and you’re half way there.

What's new about safeguarding then?

Whilst safeguarding is not a graded judgement itself, the inspector must report (under leadership and management) whether our policies and procedures are effective or not. If they're not, this will naturally affect our overall effectiveness. But don't make the mistake of thinking that attending safeguarding and child protection training every 3 years will be enough. This is actually the absolute minimum that would be expected.

To demonstrate this further you will need to be clearer about your statutory responsibilities and will push these beyond minimum standards. Check out the free safeguarding training being offered to PACEY members or check out your local safeguarding children board.

Keep a log of your training - not just what training you did but how many hours you clocked up and, most crucially, the impact that training had on your practice. This shows that you did not simply turn up for the training but that you actually reflected on what you do and whether there is room for improvement.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that this wraps up the whole Common Inspection Framework because it doesn't but... it's a really good start and I'm sure you'll agree that so far there's nothing to worry about. Check out PACEY's resources below to help further.

PACEY resources to help

Further reading

About the author

Andrea is a Registered Childminder who leads a small outstanding team of skilled and experienced practitioners. Andrea has been a member of PACEY since 2004 and, through her commitment to CPD, has achieved Fellow-Ambassador membership status. She has been a PACEY Associate for over 2 years and has her own early years training and consultancy business. She enjoys working with children, parents and carers and the wider children’s workforce. Her enthusiasm for raising the quality of childcare and education is matched only by her passion for improving outcomes for children, especially the most deprived and vulnerable.

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