Saturday, 26 November 2016

Successful Early Years Ofsted Inspections: "what the **** did you spend your time writing that for?"

I've had a fair amount of feedback from the usual sources about my new book. It's ranged from a lovely "ooh look what's arrived" tweet from Laura Henry when she opened the Amazon box, to a DM on Twitter asking "what the **** did you spend your time writing that for?".

That direct message, without the ***s, was from someone whose opinions I respect. Generally.

I guess I'm the sort of person who dwells more on the second comment than the first, so here's my answer.

Why did I spend all that time writing it?

I'm not afraid to say that I am passionate about my work with early years practitioners at all levels. The workforce is not only remarkably dedicated, but also growing in its professionalism and confidence at a staggering rate. It's why I spent the best part of seven years engaged in doctoral research with groups of early years practitioners in London.

So it saddens me when I hear from practitioners that they dread Ofsted. Or that are doing something they don't believe in, and don't think will benefit the children, because they think it's "what Ofsted want".

My book is all about Ofsted inspection, but I'm looking through the telescope from the other end.

How can we work together to support the growing professionalism of the early years workforce, and develop effective practice that works for the children and their families?

How can we do that in such a way that when Ofsted inspect, they validate what we are doing.

We know just how much the early years matter (here are just a few reasons). So, I  think that all the early years teachers, educators and practitioners - all of us, despite our different job titles and backgrounds - must focus on developing practice that is supported by the best available evidence.

It is no good saying that we "believe" in a certain approach; we need to demonstrate that it works. We need to argue for high quality early years education, based on the best evidence bases. That's especially important now that public finances are so tight. One of the things I've tried to outline in my book, is how teams can go about doing that.

One of the proudest moments in my career was hearing that Sheringham Nursery School - where I am the headteacher - had been graded Outstanding by Ofsted. But that isn't why I wrote this book.

I take just as much pride in the work I've done with other settings and other practitioners as a National Leader of Education. In Manor Park, Newham, where I work, all of the early years settings (the schools and the private, voluntary and independent nurseries) are graded Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.

That makes a lot of difference to the quality of life for families with young children. I don't claim any credit for all the hard work all those managers, room leaders and EYFS co-ordinators have done. But I am hugely proud of their successes.

Finally, I think it is hugely important that people stand up for principled early years education. For what's right for children. Especially what's right for children with special needs and disabilities; for children growing up in poverty; for children whose families experience racism and discrimination. Principled early years education is about quality, and it's about equality. It's about the child's right to play, to experience sensitive and loving care and to have an appropriate early years education.

Ofsted matters. It's the part of education system that parents know about, and turn to. And there isn't any contradiction between taking a principled approach to early years education, and achieving success in your Ofsted inspection.

That's why the **** I spent my time writing my new book.

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