Saturday, 5 December 2009

The Ofsted Early Years and Childcare SEF - it's amazing what you can get on Ebay...

If the time ever comes to look back with amusement at the current, crazy times in early years education, then the appearance on Ebay of Ofsted-friendly smoke alarm logbooks, policies and even Self Evaluation Forms (SEFs) ) is one of the moments I will recall. As I'm writing in December 2009, you can find some examples here and here - or search in Ebay for Ofsted or SEF.

In the old days of the
Early Excellence Programme, before there was Sure Start, Children’s Centres or the EYFS, I remember one of the select band of Early Excellence Centres being inspected by Ofsted for its early education, and by the local social services department for its childcare. The distinguished lead inspector from Ofsted commented that the social services team were nothing more than an irritant, tagging along behind Ofsted riffling through folders and paperwork, counting toilets, peering at soap dispensers and toilet roll holders, and checking out rooms with tape measures.


The distinguished lead inspector from Ofsted commented that the social services team were nothing more than an irritant, riffling through folders and paperwork, counting toilets, peering at soap dispensers, and checking out rooms with tape measures.

Nowadays, I think I would be pretty pleased to see those old social services daycare officers, who took a kindly interest in the children’s welfare when they were not burrowing through their files. When completing a SEF, it can feel like Ofsted is less concerned with the reality of daily life for the children than it is with measuring and accounting for everything. Schools are even asked to account for how they ensure that three and four year olds get the skills they will need in the workplace, a question that apparently led one primary school to cite role play in the nursery around vets and hairdressers as a way of preparing children for their future employment.
However wonderful your work with children, you would be advised to prepare for trouble if there are any flaws in your filing or recording of information. I will not speculate on whether a nursery with wonderful paperwork but dubious practice could come out well in its inspection. Let’s hope not.
So it is hardly a great surprise that Ebay is full of SEFs, policies, posters and logbooks to help people cope with the current inspection regime. I applaud the ingenuity of all those resourceful chimdinders and nursery managers who are making a little bit on the side for what would otherwise be hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime, hunched over paperwork and laptops at home in the middle of the night. But if the buying and selling of this stuff on Ebay doesn’t make us wonder whether something is wrong with the state of early years education and care in England – what will?
This article was first published in Nursery World.