Headlines: November 2nd, 2004

Major changes in the Ofsted inspection system will come into force in April next year. Nurseries will be inspected without being given notice. There will also be a new grading scale and the introduction of self-assessment to integrate the inspection of childcare and nursery education, schools, colleges and other post-16 training providers.The changes follow Ofsted’s early years consultation. Ofsted is also launching a formal consultation on The Framework for Inspecting Schools and The Common Inspection Framework: For Inspecting Education and Training.

The early years consultation invited views on changing the period of notice given for inspections, the grades awarded, the format of inspection reports, the introduction of self evaluation forms and whether it should take account of ‘Investors in Children’. A total of 281 responses were received with a large percentage from parents and childcare professionals. As well as the planned changes from April Ofsted is discussing with the DfES how the changes can be underpinned by changes to the legal framework.

Ninety four per cent of respondents were in favour of inspections taking place with little or no notice so the watchdog will carry out inspections of day care without notice and will call childminders a few days before the planned visit to ensure they will be in. Just over 90 per cent of people were in favour of childcare having the same grades as in school inspections. Almlost as many respondents wanted reports that focused on the outcomes for children set out in Every Child Matters and 89 per cent were in favour of a simple self evaluation form. Ofsted plans to introduce such a form and will recommend that all childcare providers complete it before they are inspected.

Chief Inspector of Schools, David Bell, said he was delighted with the support Ofsted had received. At the same time he announced that there was to be a formal consultation to seek views on proposed changes to the frameworks for inspecting education provision in schools and post-16 non-higher education and training by colleges and other providers. This follows an initial consultation that showed support for proposals for a three-year inspection cycle, with lighter inspections, less notice and more self-evaluation.