The Famly Interview
Wendy Ratcliff on Early Years Ofsted Inspections

Find out about the key changes and what's now expected from early years settings.

It’s been over a year since we first saw the final draft of the new Education Inspection Framework, the very framework that all early years settings are now judged on.

At the time, we sat down with Gill Jones to talk about the changes. Now, a year on, I got the chance to speak with Wendy Ratcliff about what has changed now that Ofsted have completed over 4,000 early years inspections on the new framework.

Wendy is an Ofsted inspector, and has played a key role in developing the new early years framework alongside Gill Jones and her team. We talked about what’s changed on the day, how to remove the myths from the inspection process, and the problem of behaviour in inspections.

You can watch snippets from the interview and read key takeaways below, or just scroll to the bottom of the page for the full 11-minute interview.

Wendy Ratcliff: The 5 key interview takeaways:
  • The learning walk has become a bigger part of the inspection day, and it’s a chance to really explain what you do in your setting and why.
  • There might be new wording in the document, but that doesn’t mean inspectors are trying to catch practitioners out in a ‘test’ just because they don’t know the exact vocabulary.
  • The inspection and reports are really trying to explain as best as possible what it’s like to be a child in your setting, hence the simplification of the report style.
  • A big focus of the change is to reduce paperwork, and Ofsted do not want you to be generating any paperwork at all just for them.
  • An increased focus on behaviour doesn’t mean that instances of bad behaviour will mark you down. Inspectors are more interested in how adults respond to those moments.
How has the early years inspection changed?

Wendy and I began by talking about how the day has changed under the new framework. She explained that it’s all about finding out what it’s like to be a child at the setting, and that they’re moving away from a more data-driven inspection.

The learning walk is now playing an enhanced role, and it’s a chance for leaders and managers to explain the rationale for their curriculum and set out their pedagogical stall.

Are practitioners expected to know the new terminology?

Wendy goes further into what ‘Intent’ and ‘Cultural Capital’ mean under the new framework, and why the most important thing is that practitioners know the children.

We also talk about why the inspection isn’t meant to be a ‘test’ of practitioner’s vocabulary and how they’ll be asked clear questions that don’t rely on deep knowledge of all the new terminology.

What role does behaviour play?

One of the big focuses of the new ofsted early years framework is behaviour, which has been given its own section for the first time.

At the end of the interview, which you can see by clicking here to scroll to the bottom of the page, Wendy explains that incidents of bad behaviour aren’t going to reflect badly on your setting. Instead, Ofsted are clear that their inspectors are looking to see how adults respond to bad behaviour in the moment.

How do we reduce the fear around Ofsted?

In this clip, Wendy and I talk about the myths surrounding Ofsted, and what they’re doing to try and quell those myths.

She mentions the effort Ofsted are making to reduce the fear around an inspection, and why it’s so important nobody does anything different for an early years inspection day. Time to get rid of those Ofsted folders from your shelf?

How are Ofsted ensuring consistency across different inspectors?

One of the challenges of a new framework is whether or not the messages and ways in which inspectors inspect remain consistent across the country.

Wendy talked about the training, workshops, messaging and feedback they’re doing to make sure this is the case, and explained a little about the quality assurance process that keeps it all in place.

How to focus assessment on the children who need it most

But next steps shouldn’t be forgotten altogether. Julian thinks that our attention should be drawn towards the handful of children who need our help the most, and why assessment can play such a valuable part in bridging that attainment gap.

Take a look at what he has to say about it in the video below, from around 16:00. He explains, for example, why deepening children’s knowledge of numbers up to ten can be more valuable than rushing some children to 50 before their peers have even got into double figures.

The full Wendy Ratcliff Interview

Enjoy the full 11-minute interview with Wendy Ratcliff, where we talk about:

  • The rollout of the EIF
  • The day of the inspection
  • Learning walks
  • Moving away from data
  • Intent, implementation and impact
  • Cultural capital
  • Expectations around terminology
  • Changes to the reports
  • Relationships with parents
  • Ofsted myths
  • Workload and paperwork
  • The ‘Ofsted’ folder
  • Consistency in inspections
  • Behaviour expectations

Free early years expert guide

Interested in reading more? Download our guide packed full of advice on everything you need to successfully run an early years setting, from 26 of the UK’s leading experts.

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