Gill Jones, Ofsted's Deputy Director for Early Education, writes about future changes to our arrangements for the inspection and regulation of early years.
Last week, Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw announced that we’re bringing early years inspection and registration work in-house from April 2017. This means we’ll be directly responsible for the training and management of inspectors, and we’ll have complete oversight of the quality of all inspections.
Since 2010, we’ve contracted two companies – Prospects and Tribal – who have successfully undertaken the majority of early years inspections on behalf of Ofsted. These contracts come to an end on 31 March 2017, and after careful consideration, we decided that this is the right time for Ofsted to directly manage early years inspections.
Aligning early years with our education and skills remits
As regular readers of this blog will know, from September 2015, we ended our outsourcing arrangements for schools and further educations and skills (FES) inspections. We now directly contract and train Ofsted Inspectors, the majority of whom are serving practitioners, to carry out inspections and work closely with our directly employed Her Majesty’s Inspectors. At the same time we introduced the common inspection framework for early years, schools, and FES with a single overarching set of judgements that apply to each remit. This will not change: the common inspection framework will continue to apply. Indeed it provides a strong rationale to bring early years into line with our inspections of schools and FES.
There is a strong logic to bringing inspections under direct Ofsted control. Ofsted is an inspectorate and a regulator – inspection is our raison d'être. So, it makes sense to bring a core function under our direct control and management.
None of this means we were unhappy with the service provided by our contractors. We’ve worked with the inspection service providers for more than five years and in that time they’ve delivered well for Ofsted. I’m grateful to both contractors for their role in increasing the quality of provision in the early years.
Ongoing communication with the sector
I’m pleased that our main provider representative organisations have voiced positive feedback about the move. And I am confident that we have made the right decision; one that builds on the work of our contractors. That said; I do not want to give the impression that our decision is a panacea for all concerns. We will continue to listen and respond to the sector through regular communication, our National Consultative Forum meetings and attendance at national events. And where issues arise, we will work to resolve them.
What matters to me now is that we think carefully about managing the transition, so that parents and providers see only a seamless process from now until summer 2017. I look forward to working with the contractors over that period of time. And I look forward to working closely with new colleagues to continue to focus on quality in the early years.