New inspection handbook: clarification from Ofsted

Following the release of the new Early Years Inspection Handbook, which comes into effect in September 2019, we contacted Ofsted with a number of urgent questions about the new inspection regime for out of school clubs, as set out in Annex A of the Handbook.

The Out of School Alliance had a very useful telephone meeting with Wendy Ratcliff, HM Inspector with a specialist knowledge in early education, who explains here the reasoning behind the changes to Ofsted’s approach to inspecting out of school clubs on the Early Years Register.

This is what Wendy told us:

Earlier this year, Ofsted consulted on its proposals for introducing a new education inspection framework from September 2019. Respondents who only provide care for children at the beginning and end of the school day or in holiday periods raised concerns that the proposed quality of education judgement would not work well for them.

These providers are not required to meet the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) learning and development requirements. Under the current framework, we do not apply the ‘outcomes’ judgement because of this. The majority of responses from these providers rightly emphasise how they focus on meeting the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the EYFS. Responses include comments such as: ‘While we educate children through play and discussion, we are not an education service.’

As a result, we took the decision to remove the ‘quality of education’ judgement for these types of providers.  Inspectors will still consider the criteria for three of the key judgements:

  • Behaviour and attitudes
  • Personal development
  • Leadership and management

and will use these to inform a judgement for ‘overall effectiveness’.

So, what do you need to know? It’s important to stress that this new framework represents an evolution, not a revolution, in our approach to inspection. But the most significant differences are:

  • The judgement for 'overall effectiveness' will result in settings being judged as to whether they meet or don't meet the safeguarding and welfare requirements set out in the EYFS. For settings which don't meet the requirements, there is a further subdivision into 'not met with actions' and 'not met with enforcement'.
  • The tables of evaluation criteria in the Handbook, which are divided into 'outstanding', 'good', 'requires improvement' and 'inadequate', won't be used to directly map onto the 'met' and 'not met' judgements for out of school clubs. Inspectors will consider the evaluation criteria for the three judgement areas (behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management) in reaching a judgement about whether the provider is meeting the safeguarding and welfare requirements.
  • The inspection report for out of school clubs will include a summary for parents about what is like for a child to attend the setting. Inspectors will report on what the setting does well and what it needs to do better. With the removal of the 'outstanding' and 'good' judgements for clubs, this narrative will help parents to distinguish between a club which just meets the safeguarding and welfare requirements, and one which truly excels.

And what about 30 hours funding – can clubs that are judged as 'met' still be eligible to participate in the 30 hours free childcare offer?  That is one for the Department for Education, which sets out who is eligible in its published guidance for early years settings and local authorities.

We are doing pilot inspections at out of school clubs this term and during the summer holidays to test out the new inspection arrangements. We will update those with an interest in the early years on how these have gone.

The EYFS clearly states that the safeguarding and welfare requirements are designed to help early years providers to create high quality settings which are welcoming, safe and stimulating, where children can enjoy learning and grow in confidence. It is important remember that the requirements of the EYFS have not changed, so clubs don’t need to do anything differently as a result of the changes in the new Handbook. What has changed is the way that clubs will be graded in future, and the areas that inspectors will consider when making their judgements.