Ofsted’s new strategy and focus on the early years

Ofsted has today launched a new five-year strategy. Elements of this which affect the early years include commitments to

  • “simplify the regulatory regime for childminders”
  • “develop the evidence base about early years education, including curriculum and pedagogy, and act on it…
    • develop the evidence base around the early years learning and development curriculum through our research and insights programme
    • develop specialist training on early years education for our workforce to enhance their understanding of what high-quality early education looks like
    • raise awareness and promote a better understanding of education and care in children’s early years”

Early Education welcomes Ofsted’s recognition of the importance of early years and the need to support quality improvement in the early years to give early child the best start in life.  Better training for inspectors is an important starting place, as there is currently considerable inconsistency between inspections of early years in both registered provision and schools.  We still hear complaints about inspectors who do not understand enough about early years pedagogy or child development, or even the EYFS Statutory Framework, and who therefore make inappropriate judgements with a damaging impact on staff and settings. 

Ofsted needs to be very careful in how it uses its research and insights programme to inform its inspections.  Past reports such as “Teaching and play in the early years: a balancing act” are well respected, but others such as “Bold Beginnings” or the recent research report on mathematics had a far more questionable evidence base. 

Such publications also run the risk of Ofsted violating its own principle that it does not tell schools and settings how to teach by promoting a limited set of approaches or examples, or giving the impression that Ofsted wishes things to be done in a particular way.  It would be far better if Ofsted avoided this top-down approach and worked in partnership with the sector to consider how it can have a supportive role in quality enhancement.

We look forward to a continued dialogue with Ofsted over how this strategy will be implemented.