Completing my report on the Learn Explore Debate conference, a report back on the Ofsted Big Conversation (OBC) that took place on 17th September, and a snippet from the new Narrowing the Gaps Seminars hosted by Ofsted that I attended this week form part of today’s blog.
Do you all remember that tender that was put out by the government for an organisation to ‘drive through the delivery of the 30-hours’? Well apparently there is an imminent announcement as to who is to receive the £3million to support this. It will be interesting to see how this plays out…
As for the 30-hour pilots: there were positive reports from Staffordshire LA about their trial with 16 large employers apparently exceeding targets. Sue Robb also reported that she had heard good reports back from York and Wigan and that in Swindon all bar one provider was involved. I’m not surprised by this positive news, but the sceptic in me thinks it couldn’t be anything but. On a broader scale though we still know that the proposal, with its current funding format, is unsustainable for many providers. I’d like to think the EYNFF could sort this out – but unless there is a drastic change of plan – it sadly won’t. Have you joined the Champagne Nurseries: Lemonade Funding Facebook group yet? With 2600 members we’re aiming for some joined up thinking on action!
Other updates came on several items, information being delayed because of the new Government needing time to get up to speed. We should hear something on our Workforce Strategy by around December, there will be a focus on career progression, retention and attraction of staff. Points raised from the room included revisiting the GCSE Maths requirement with a suggestion of an EY Competent Functional Skills test perhaps. The current crises in recruitment was acknowledged by many and linked to this, at the Ofsted Big Conversation when Lorna Fitzjohn, West Midlands Regional Director asked if there was anything Ofsted could do for us and I suggested getting the secondary schools to get students through their GCSE’S! We can but hope I guess.
The new EYFS 2016 still remains unpublished and Inspections taking place now should continue on the EYFS 2014 – so the new criteria for First Aid on new staff does not yet apply for inspection. Although some of the audience said they had already been questioned on this by Ofsted! One bit of new information came through that the cut-off date for the ‘newly-qualified staff’ is 30th June 2016 – so don’t get caught out, check your recently qualified recruits and make sure they have their first aid up to date or scheduled, ready for when the new EYFS comes in.
A short report on the Ofsted Big Conversation Open Meeting will be available on their website. Discussions included many things such as paperwork, communication, in-house inspections. Essentially like any ‘conversation’ though you had to be there to get the most from it. It’s fair to say though that Ofsted are keen to get things right, they want to engage with the sector and improve their own services. However, they have a key job to do and will not compromise on their expectations.
Activity from all my Ofsted Big Conversation interactions included looking at their recent report Unknown children: destined for disadvantage, and the message is clear, we need to continue to narrow these gaps for this group of children so that they are not destined for lower outcomes in the future. However, as all children have improved (well done us) but the ‘gaps’ have not narrowed, I find myself asking – does this mean we should not progress our ‘good level of development’ children and keep them in some sort of mediocrity in order to work only on improving the lowest performing so essentially ‘dumbing down’ our average learners? Surely this would be an ‘unintended consequence’ (and I get that term from Allan Presland, CEO of the The Parenta Group from a recent article) of such a policy.
Discussions at all events considered just who are our disadvantaged children, they may not even be the most deprived as other factors can influence a specific child’s individual ‘disadvantage’ e.g. early language skills, carers who are not the parents, crime, large families and so forth and it’s not all about deprivation (and as I have said before – would THAT be a better thing to include in a funding formula?). Using EYPP to evidence how we support improving learning in these children was also discussed at length at the Ofsted Big Conversation. It is clear Ofsted know and are aware of all of these factors and we can expect that they will continue to be rigorous with settings when inspecting on our knowledge of and achievements in narrowing individual gaps for our children. Whilst we are probably not paid enough to cover all the things we might like to do for families (not an Ofsted concern) it seems to me we are certainly expected to deliver on this – personally I feel this wouldn’t be an issue if only we were allowed to take charge of our businesses in order to fund this sort of support (but don’t get me on my soap box on that again!) I get so frustrated at the millions that have been wasted on opening and then closing children’s centres – when we in the PVI have been here all the time – it was definitely a lost opportunity for the Government in engaging the PVI sector – and now they are relying on us to deliver their election pledge – on a shoe string! Rant over!
In other news – we are proud to be taking part in our first Exhibition at the Childcare Expo on Friday 30th September and Saturday 1st October. Feel free to come along and visit us and collect some freebies, talk about our fantastic training and even look at our new Foundation Focus product – Creating your SEF – check out the show offers if you’re coming.
About the author: Tricia Wellings
Her passion for and knowledge of owning and running a nursery group and the issues within the sector that affect them is second to none. She continues to keep herself updated through regular meetings with PVI groups, Local Authorities, Ofsted Big Conversation and Conferences.
You can find our more about Tricia on her website www.triciawellings.co.uk