Ofsted Inspections in Early Years – Changes Ahead

An important part of our role as leaders in early years is to keep up to date with current thinking and proposed developments that might impact on children’s experiences at nursery. Julie and I recently attended an Ofsted Curriculum Workshop in Manchester focussed around the key aspects of the new framework.

There is currently a consultation by Ofsted to gain feedback on proposed changes in the way nurseries will be inspected from September 2019, these include:

  • New areas of focus and changes in terminology such as ‘curriculum’
  • New Inspection headings including a sharper focus on quality of education
  • Distinguishing the ‘curriculum’ from teaching and assessment

Curriculum in not a new term used within Early Years, it is already in the Leadership and Management aspect of the Inspection Handbook. However, curriculum can mean different things and one aim of this session was to clarify what curriculum means within the early years sector.
When deciding to restructure their judgement areas, Ofsted chose to revisit each area and consider feedback from providers. Their aim is ‘evolution not revolution’, keeping parts that work well and identifying areas that needed to change.

We know that the early years of a child’s life are so important, young children are especially receptive between birth and age 5, when their brains develop at the fastest speed and they learn more rapidly than at any other age. We also know that there continues to be a focus on supporting children’s language development at a national level and this continues to remain a focus across all our nurseries. However, the possible changes that may occur from the consultation make for exciting times.

The suggested early years curriculum enables us to remain focussed on opportunities to expand on children’s knowledge, vocabulary and learning. Ofsted describe the curriculum as WHAT is taught, Teaching is HOW it is taught, and the Assessment Goals are the desired outcomes. The important thing for us at nursery is to keep our children at the centre of this process, continuing to provide rich learning experiences but with a sharper focus on the “what” is being taught to ensure we deliver an early years curriculum that meets the needs of all children.

We have many systems in our nurseries already that support the changes proposed by Ofsted. We have Peer Observations to monitor teaching in the settings. We assess children’s learning, both summative and formative to ensure that children’s development and areas of focus for learning meets the breadth of the curriculum. Tracking children’s learning across the EYFS enables us to ensure children make progress in their development and we support children whose attainment is below or above the expected range for their age. Our planning, home links and parent meetings enables us to do this effectively, but we can do more.

We are going to look more closely at the curriculum and the WHAT that is taught to ensure that the delivery of our curriculum offers all children opportunities to learn beyond the realms of their own experience and that we give new meaning to what children already know. We are pleased this renewed focus on curriculum aligns with our nursery values and underpins the vision we have for ‘every child to fulfil their potential’ allowing us to tap into the drive and commitment the team already have to achieve this.

There are always changes in early years and education generally, the important thing for us is to examine these changes alongside our own values and find a way to deliver what is required whilst staying true to what we already believe children need and deserve; adults who deeply care and are intent on on inspiring young minds with the awe and wonder of the world around them!

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