Posts Tagged ‘OFSTED’

Good quality pre-schools are start of lifelong learning

December 14th, 2015 by Sarah Steel

There was an interesting article in the Sunday Times yesterday about a research project at Oxford University, which follows on from previous research on pre-school provision. The study shows that children who are ‘turned-on’ to learning in their pre-school years will go on to achieve greater academic success. The Early Years Foundation Stage now has a real emphasis on practitioners looking at how children learn, as well as what they learn, which we describe as ‘characteristics of effective learning’. It’s always good to know we’re on the right track!

Have a read of the article for yourself:

Why it’s good to share a joke with your child

September 11th, 2015 by Sarah Steel

It’s always good to have some positive news in early years, so thanks to Morton Michel (our insurance company) who wrote a great article this week about some recently published research, which showed that parents who joke and pretend with their children are teaching them valuable life skills. As they went on to explain:

‘Play is crucial to a child’s development with children as young as 16 months old naturally learning the difference between joking and pretending by picking up on their parents’ cues. The study by Sheffield University showed understanding the difference between joking and pretending allows children the opportunity to learn, imagine, bond, and think in abstract ways.
Dr Elena Hoicka, from the Department of Psychology, said: “The study shows just how important play is to children’s development. Parents who pretend and joke with their children offer cues to distinguish the difference between the two and toddlers take advantage of these cues to perform.

“For example, if a parent said something like, ‘That’s not really a hat!’ children would realise it was a joke, and not real, and would avoid putting the toy chicken on their head. “But if parents were pretending that, for example, a block was a horse, they might repeatedly make the block gallop, which would encourage children to do the same, and understand that the block really was a horse in their imagination.” She added: “The research reveals the process in which toddlers learn to distinguish joking and pretending.”

Researchers from the University’s Department of Psychology carried out two studies; one involved parents being asked to joke and pretend with their 16 to 20 month old children using actions. Jokes involved misusing objects like putting food on their heads and pretend play included activities like washing hands without soap or water. In the second study, parents of 20 to 24 month olds were asked to joke and pretend verbally with their toddlers. Pretend play included parents telling their children a round block was a horse and jokes included mismatching items like saying that a toy chicken was a hat.
The research, which was published in Cognitive Science, found parents can offer explicit cues to help distinguish between joke and pretend intention contexts and children, even as young as 16 months old, pick up on those cues.
In both studies parents showed more disbelief and less belief through their language and actions when joking in comparison to pretending. In response their children showed less belief through their actions and the older children showed less belief through their language.

“Knowing how to joke is good for maintaining relationships, thinking outside the box, and enjoying life. Pretending helps children to practice new skills and learn new information. “So while parents may feel a bit daft putting a toy chicken on their head they can at least console themselves with the knowledge that they are helping their children develop important skills for life,” added Dr Hoicka.

So, next time  you find yourself doing something rather silly in the line of playing with your children, relax and remember you’re helping their learning skills, as well as having fun and building strong and secure attachments!
The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
– See more at:

Do we really want our 2 year olds in school?

April 15th, 2014 by Sarah Steel



Following on from last week’s announcement by Sir Micheal Wilshaw that school was the best place for 2 year olds, there has been some really interesting comment in the press.

Here is just one article that suggests that the Head of Office and our Childcare Minister are not universally supported by the experts!






I have just returned from a few days away with my family, to a plethora of articles and comment on last week’s OFSTED report on Early Years provision. I had a taste of what was to come as I read the Sunday Times last week, which warned that parents were to hear how nurseries and childminders were failing their children. Then I caught a comment on line mid-week, with an exasperated nursery manager objecting to Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comment that nurseries were full of ‘the least able caring for the most vulnerable’.

Suffice it to say, I have been simmering gently ever since then.  My humour has hardly improved having read the report in more detail; how can OFSTED make a complete **** up of the nursery inspection regime over the last year, resulting in a significant number of inspection downgrades, most of which are currently being appealed by outraged operators? Not surprisingly, this has lead to an increase in the number of nurseries graded ‘inadequate’ – many of which have dropped from ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ due to highly questionable judgments by ill-informed inspectors. Sir Michael Wilshaw then further compounded the inevitable statistics by deciding that ‘satisfactory’ was actually no longer satisfactory, so everyone who previous sat on the right side of the ‘quality line’ has now become not good enough, with the grading being changed to ‘requires improvement’.  Next year, will he decide that ‘good’ is no longer ‘good’, thereby moving the statistics yet again?

However, one thing has come out of this week’s report. The Government, via our esteemed minister Ms Truss, has pinned its colours firmly to the mast; the best place for 2 year olds is in school. Our smallest children, whom many would see as little more than babies, some of whom are only just walking unaided and all of whom are in nappies, should be in class rooms. The Academies agenda has just been extended yet further, to encompass all bar our under-2s. Wilshaw refers to the large and varied group of experts as ‘the chattering classes’ for daring to suggest that we already push our children in to school to early.

I feel a mixture of real sadness and utter frustration that Wilshaw and Truss between them can dismiss such a large expert body with such a lack of respect.  I for one would like to call for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the pair of them. I am proud to be part of a dedicated and professional Early Years sector and hope that I am sufficiently open-minded to weigh up the research and experience of the real experts, who believe that pre-school children should be in specialist ‘pre-school’ environments. For our political leaders – the clue is in the name, ‘pre-school’.

An OFSTED success!

January 13th, 2014 by Sarah Steel

Some of you may have followed our battle with OFSTED over the last 7 months, to get our grading at The Old Station Nursery, Innsworth  over-turned. To summarise a very long explanation, we had an inspection in May 13 when the inspector told us we were ‘good’ but then a week later she phoned us back to say that she had to downgrade this to a ‘satisfactory’ judgement as part of the quality assurance process, as we had reported a compliance issue to OFSTED in September 2012. We all felt this was really unfair, as the compliance issue had involved a member of staff recording the administration of medicine incorrectly, which was fully dealt with at the time, and the inspector checked all aspects of this and was happy with how we had acted.   We felt that settings shouldn’t be punished for having acted correctly when mistakes occurred and that the judgement the inspector makes on the day should be more valid than that of someone in quality assurance who has never set foot in the nursery.

The first appeal was not upheld and we were told by Tribal (the agency who inspect on behalf of  OFSTED) that they had acted properly. I then raised a second stage appeal with OFSTED and they investigated the whole process again. After 7 months, I held out very little hope of ever getting an answer, so was surprised and delighted to hear a few weeks ago that they had re-examined the inspector’s notes and agreed that the judgements she made reflected a ‘good’ nursery. Our report has been amended and our grading of ‘good’ has been reinstated.

Whilst this is clearly good new for us, it has taken more than 7 months to get to this outcome, during which time our public grading has been only ‘satisfactory’, which undoubtedly has not helped our occupancy levels, particularly through the key summer months. Staff were extremely upset by the whole process and it has taken a while to pick ourselves up again and move forward. The Ofsted Big Conversation is continuing to bring providers together and has secured several meetings with OFSTED regional heads. However, there is still a long way to go and we must all continue to share experiences and to lobby for a more transparent system. We know that our children deserve the best and want to work with OFSTED to achieve this, but there must be a better system to sort out complaints than the current one – is justice after 7 months really good enough?


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