At the Nursery World Show in London, we got the chance to sit down with Ofsted’s deputy director of early education Gill Jones and talk all about the new inspection framework and what it means for the early years. She explains what Ofsted mean by the new ‘Quality of Education’ category, along with the role that behaviour, vocabulary, and outcomes have to play in the framework.
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Watch the full interview or read the transcript below and let us know what you think!
We’re here at Nursery World and we’ve just had a great conversation with Gill Jones, the deputy director of early education at Ofsted. She talked to us all about the brand new framework that Ofsted have put out for consultation and what the different parts of it mean. Hope you enjoy, and let us know what you think down below. So first of all, thanks so much for taking the time to be here, a new Ofsted inspection framework, I guess the first question is why, why are we here with this new framework.
Well we’re here because we felt that there were some things in our current framework that we can improve but as HMCI Amanda Spielman has said, this is an evolution not a revolution, so there are many things that we’re going to keep the same, but we felt that our current framework is driving some behaviour that’s really quite unhelpful for children.
Okay, and maybe a little more on whether there’s anything specifically that you think it’s driving that’s unhelpful to children?
We think that there is far too much paperwork going on in the name of assessment, which is very valuable in terms of knowing what children can do, and what they need to do next. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be linked to lots and lots of paperwork. Our current framework (because we’ve got an outcomes judgment) is driving people to produce a lot of evidence for us about children’s outcomes which is also driving the paperwork.
For me it seems the biggest change when you’re looking through that new draft framework is this quality of education and the kind of split out of that from outcomes. Please could you explain for me where does that quality of education criteria come from and what’s it meant to represent here?
The reason we’ve gone for a quality of education framework is because what children are taught and how they are taught is really very important. It’s the summation of everything that we do. So that people could understand what we did, we sort of divided it up and gave it a construct of intent, implementation and impact.
So what that means in terms of the early years is that we have the EYFS which was in statute, we also have our definition of teaching which is not going to change. So we have EYFS where the framework itself hasn’t got a lot of flesh on it, so in terms of the intent providers have to put the flesh on the EYFS they do that anyway by decide which resources they have in their settings, and they decide whether they’re going to take a “topic” approach, whether they’re going to do very much a “follow the child’s interests” approach or a mixture of the two. So that is their curriculum intent. Then the implementation is about how that intent works in practice. For example, why might you choose to use a shape sorter or a jigsaw as opposed to doing something something else. It’s about the choices that practitioners make and then the impact is relates to the progress the children make as a result of what you’ve done, what have they learned, what’s the difference.
That’s great, I think that makes a lot of sense that splitting up. One thing that I heard both yourself on the Nursery World piece that you wrote actually, but also Amanda Spielman in the initial announcement was that this is also about putting some trust back into managers. Is that where you see that intent idea, so that you’re trusting them to to influence the EYFS as they like?
Absolutely, yes, what we don’t want to create through this new framework is a provider thinking that they’ve got to go out and buy a curriculum. You know, this is really about knowing their children, knowing their staff, and working as a team in order to ensure that the children have the best learning opportunities that they can. So very much do what’s best that they’re doing already.
That’s really great to hear, another piece that I’ve just got written down here is that this was the first time in this new draft that you’ve mentioned building vocabulary specifically and I know it’s something you’ve talked about before. Is there a reason why you’ve decided to make it explicit within the inspection framework this time around?
The reason that we have put in building vocabularies specifically is because it is so important, it’s key to to everything. The more words a child knows, and understands, the more confident they become, the easier it will be for them to learn to read for example and to access the rest of the curriculum. So the first stages of building vocabulary from babyhood onwards are vital. We want inspectors to ask practitioners and leaders about what they’re doing to ensure that children learn and remember more.
*Gill also sent us this further explanation about the importance of vocabulary!*
It’s really important that children develop a good vocabulary. It brings confidence, assuredness, when they can articulate what they’re thinking through a good vocabulary – that sets them up for life. A broad curriculum, a rich curriculum, gives children a good vocabulary. In fact, it’s the best way to ensure that children develop a good vocabulary. However, it’s also very important that teachers know what vocabulary is learnt through the curriculum and the best ways to get children to increase their vocabulary.
So if we take the children in the early years, for example, it’s very, very important that teachers are aware what sort of vocabulary could be picked up through the activities that children are doing, but what needs to be taught quite explicitly through reading to children. The most rapid way for children to increase their vocabulary is through listening to stories, rhymes, poems, that they can then internalise, repeat and learn new word and the meaning of new words through those stories.
So I suppose the final question just around this new quality of education outcome, is this a move away from outcomes? Is this a move away from focusing on the outcomes of the children and back really to the teaching itself, or is it still important what happens when children start to approach that school-age?
Outcomes are always important, because they define readiness in the early years so a child that is well on the road to being able to read, or to be confident in all the areas of learning, that’s important. We’re not saying outcomes don’t matter, they do matter, but the journey to the outcomes is really important, particularly for children who are disadvantaged or have special educational needs so you know the opportunities they have to practice what they need to do, to have the experiences they need to have, to have enough time to really ensure that they know and understand things is very important.
The other main change in terms of those inspection focuses now is obviously that you’ve separated out behaviour away from where it was before under the three categories. What’s the thinking behind that, what’s the thinking behind separating out behaviour?
Well for early years it’s really important I think that we’ve separated out behaviour because the focus around children’s behaviour is fundamental to their development in fact, probably comes before everything else. You know, it’s learnt from the moment they’re born, the eye contact, the interactions, and I just showed a picture in my talk of two young toddlers communicating and it’s very evident that children who have a really good experience from adults working with them and modelling that behavior transfers to their relationships with other children. So it’s key and we separated it out because adults do lots of things that influence children’s behaviour, but ultimately children’s behaviour is their outcome, their input. We separated those judgments for two reasons, one to give the emphasis that we feel that it deserves, and two so that we can actually separate the modelling that the adults do and the protocols that they give children from how children actually behave.
Once more on behaviour, the thing that initially struck me was how much behaviour is determined by what a leader can do in a nursery and how much it’s determined by area, by the cohorts they maybe get. One year they might have a wonderful cohort of children, the next year it seems that there’s just these behavioural issues in them. Do you feel like there’s a concern it might add a little more pressure on to nursery managers and child minders that when they do have behavioural issues that they’re worried they’re going to be judged as a setting badly because of that?
I think one of the reasons why we separated it was to help with that, because clearly some children do enter settings with a huge number of problems and what we’ll be looking at is what the setting does to try and address those problems and make it better for children. So I hope that it will help.
That’s a really great answer. Finally to sum up one of the things that is a big talking point of this framework that both you and Amanda have talked about is paperwork, and as you said reducing paperwork, reducing this expectation of paperwork. How in real terms do you think that this new inspection framework is going to help settings have the confidence to reduce this useless assessment gathering so to speak?
Well I hope by us saying so very clearly that we do not require paperwork will encourage settings to really think about why they’re doing paperwork and who they’re doing it for. Obviously in the EYFS, assessment was brought in so that parents could be kept informed about their children’s progress. But there’s nothing to say that that has to be a paper mountain, it’s about a conversation, because particularly in the early years, but also right through education, it’s a partnership between parents, setting, and child. That partnership is best exemplified through conversation not masses of paper.
That’s brilliant it’s really great to hear because I know that that’s definitely a concern that a lot of settings are feeling, and I think it’s important that Ofsted do as much as they can to reduce that expectation because we don’t want settings to feel like they’re doing paperwork for Ofsted and that’s what comes back to what you talked about initially which is really to make managers feel confident.
I think there’s another element to it as well, there is some of the ways of collecting assessment data at the moment which almost takes the responsibility away from a practitioner of knowing what they should do next with a child and what is really key in this framework is the knowledge that practitioners have about the journey, the child’s learning journey.
We know that the most effective adults that work with children are those that fully understand the sort of pathways children take from not being able to do something, to being able to do it whether that be in terms of potty training, learning to climb a new piece of apparatus or whether it’s learning to paint or use glue sticks. Whatever it is, there are certainly tiny steps that a really skilled practitioner will be able to identify, and just know innately what they need to do. They don’t need bits of paper to tell them that and it gets in the way.
So I guess finally to finish up, next steps, we’re in consultation now. The ink doesn’t get written on the paper until September I believe. What are you wanting now early years managers and leaders to do and give feedback to you on with what you’ve released?
Well we want early years leaders and managers and all staff in early years settings to look at the handbooks. We’ve put lots and lots of detail in there to look at, and if they want further clarification they can contact us, to discuss any concerns or improvements they think need to be there. They can do this by filling in our online consultation and we’ll look at it. This is a real consultation and we are very interested to know what settings staff are saying about it
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