The early years handbook for the new education inspection framework is here -
The handbook (Sept 2019) talks about what happens before, during and after inspection. The main part of the document is about the inspection itself and the judgements Ofsted will be grading you against when they come to see you working.
There are some minor tweaks to the inspection framework – but the biggest changes are to what Ofsted expect you to be doing in your day-to-day practice. These changes are not huge but you do need to be aware of the latest Ofsted ‘buzzwords’ and think about how well you will explain what you do during inspection.
The reason I say ‘explain what you do’ is because Ofsted are changing the way they inspect you. Instead of the inspector sitting at a table spending most of the inspection looking at your files and checking your paperwork, there will be a much bigger focus on your practice. In a group setting, the inspector will be out in the rooms more, talking to the children and staff – in a childminding setting, the inspector will be following you around and talking to me about what you are doing and why.
The main changes you need to be aware of include –
The inspector will want to walk round your house and garden with you and talk about the opportunities you provide for children to learn.
This might include you talking about, for example, your teaching, how children learn (7 areas of learning and the learning characteristics), how you work from children’s interests (so they retain information, interest and motivation), the ways you support behaviour (self-control, emotions, responses to challenges) and help them to develop school ready skills.
Note – plan what you are going to say on your learning walk. It will set the tone for the rest of the inspection and allow you to show your inspector what you do and to lay out your daily routine. Look carefully at your house and garden – are you proud of what you do?
I think of the learning walk as a new parent interview – I want to show off my setting and ways of working. The parent will ask me questions which I will answer, while working round the needs of the children in the setting at the time.
Ofsted have confirmed that, for childminders, it can be a ‘learning sit’ if the children, for example, are worried about a visitor.
The EYFS requires us to teach children through play – the Early Years Inspection handbook requires us to deliver a sequenced curriculum – the curriculum is the 7 areas of learning. The inspection handbook defines teaching on page 34, footnote 18. Ofsted state that the EYFS is a skeleton – it is up to you to decide how you ‘colour it in’ (Amanda Spielman for Nursery World magazine).
Curriculum planning is an ongoing cycle of observation (starting points and ongoing observations), assessment (ongoing and summary – the statutory 2 year progress check) and individual planning (play, teaching and learning). You can also use group planning if you find it useful for your current cohort of children. There is no requirement for lengthy record keeping – you can write notes if you find them helpful to keep you on track but it’s up to you how much you record.
Note – the guidance documents provided to help determine whether a child is making good progress from their starting points (Development Matters, Early Years Outcomes and the parent guide ‘What to expect, when?’) are not tick lists – using a tick list can limit children’s development and lead to testing children’s knowledge to fit the statements.
Develop your CPD: I have lots of e-books to support you with planning on my Knutsford Childminding website – e-book 14b ‘Individual Planning’ is a good place to start.
What does your curriculum look like?
Remember planning is not linear or orderly and each child will follow a different path. Therefore, a good curriculum should be sequenced to each child’s learning needs – this is why starting points from parents – the things the child can already do and say at home – are so important. You can then build on these starting points while the child is in your care, supporting home learning by suggesting ideas for activities parents can follow-up at home.
Sequencing means knowing the order children need to learn things in and being sure they are engaged with something new and different every day so they learn new things. Children have different life experiences, reasoning ability, executive functioning skills and awareness of how they learn … these should all impact on the child’s individual curriculum / planning.
Ofsted (Amanda Spielman) reminds us that ‘it is not enough to simply put everything out and hope something sticks’.– we need to make sure the building blocks to learning are in place and if a child is struggling with something, think about how to help them learn another way.
Note – there is no expectation for providers to take a tick list approach to teaching or to teach phonics, reading or maths in the early years. Our curriculum should be based on playful interactions with the children, quality environments and resources (continuous provision), outings and adventures etc because children learn through play.
Develop your CPD: if you want to include some group planned activities in your daily routines, you do not need to write them down – I have done that for you in my e-books. A good place to start is e-book 15 ‘Group Planning’, followed by e-book 15b ‘Activity Planning’ - both for sale on my Knutsford Childminding website.
Studies show there is a ‘word gap’ in the early years - and that children’s vocabulary impacts on life-long learning. A child who knows and can use a lot of words, learned through activities and in conversation and when reading books, has what Ofsted call ‘agency’.
Bear in mind that some words will need to be taught explicitly and other words will be learned through daily routines. For example, we were reading ‘Jack and the beanstalk’ and it occurred to me that none of the children knew what a ‘harp’ was so we listened to harp music and watched a harpist play… we explicitly taught a new word.
Note – Ofsted do not want to see children learning lists of word or staff teaching children new words unless they come up in what you are doing. However, if there is a new word in a book you are reading, take a moment to ask the children if they know what it means and explain it to them if they look at you blankly.
Ofsted talk about the power of books and book language and the ways in which reading books increases vocabulary. They point out that children will hear words in books that they will not normally hear during conversation. It is important that children enjoy books and develop a love of stories – they need to know how a story flows (limit questioning so they can use their working memory to hold the story in their heads) – they need to hear the same stories (and words) again and again.
Note – Ofsted do not expect you to read for long sessions or spend the entire inspection reading to children. During your learning walk you will talk about the times in the day when you usually read books, sing songs etc. For example, in our childminding setting we read books at morning snack time (usually linked to other things we are doing) and we sing songs before tea.
Develop your CPD: you can find planned activity ideas linked to different children’s books in e-books 12 and 13 ‘Books of the Month 1 and 2’ from my Knutsford Childminding website.
Progress from starting points
Ofsted want to see children making progress from their starting points. Progress is defined by Ofsted as ‘changes to a child’s long-term memory’. To achieve this, the curriculum needs to be…
- Carefully thought through
- Appropriate for each child
- Linked to the child’s starting points
- Play based
- Balanced – the EYFS talks about adult-led, adult guided and child-initiated
- Sometimes directly taught
- Full of ‘awe and wonder’
- Planned to support each child’s individual learning journey.
Ofsted want to see children being taught the building blocks for learning (making a difference to their short-term memory) … so they learn more (make connections and practice) … and remember more (as learning transfers from short to long term memory).
Note: inspectors will look at written tracking if it is presented to them but it must be simple to understand / read and a quick overview. Most of the focus during inspection will be on talking about the child – your knowledge of each child and their learning, development and progress.
Develop your CPD: you can find more information about tracking children’s progress in e-book 13 ‘Tracking children’s progress’ on my Knutsford Childminding website.
This is a thread that should be ‘woven through provision’ (Amanda Spielman for Nursery World magazine).
You are including cultural capital in children’s lives by –
- Planning from their starting points – know what children do at home and in their family life and build on it in the setting
- Introducing children to ‘awe and wonder’
- Planning your daily routines to support each child
- Teaching new things
- Going out on adventures together
- Making sure children don’t miss out on the building blocks of learning.
You do this by scaffolding children’s learning from their starting points using a combination of a carefully planned environment, relationships (with parents, children, other agencies etc), quality resources, outings, inside and outside play, daily routines, reading books, modelling behaviour etc.
Note – if you have a cultural capital poster or signs or displays, Gill Jones (Ofsted) says you are ‘missing the point’.
Develop your CPD: there are many ways to include cultural capital into children’s lives. If you are a Childcare.co.uk gold member I have delivered webinar training to share some ideas. You can find more information here - https://www.childcare.co.uk/webinarplayer.
Wellbeing is linked to both staff and children and weaves throughout the inspection framework. if children are not happy, they will not be motivated and engaged in their learning – if they are not displaying these learning characteristics they will not be thinking.
It is important to get the basics in place first – think Maslow’s hierarchy of need – Bruner’s key person and attachment theory – then Vygotsky’s scaffolding!
Develop your CPD: you can find more information about wellbeing in my new e-book ‘Wellbeing in the early years’ – e-book 71 from my Knutsford Childminding website.
Are you ready for the new inspection framework? Do you have more questions? …
Please ask if you are unsure! Sarah x