In July 2019 Ofsted published a Press Release which discussed their research into Multi-Academy Trusts (MAT’s) and came through with recommendations that they should be able to inspect MAT’s as a group provider rather than just the individual schools within the MAT. Amongst other things they recognised that schools were often influenced by the policies of the MAT, yet the MAT could not be held accountable for elements of this, even when their internal processes of accountability were not upheld – this is because Ofsted did not inspect the MAT as whole, just individual schools. Yet they have recently introduced a new summary evaluation for overseeing MAT’s.
Of course it is the same situation with early years and children’s social care. There are large group providers who oversee many settings, yet each individual setting is inspected and not the group as a whole. It is therefore interesting to see that Ofsted have now done similar research with Group Day Nurseries and Childrens’ Homes and published a report for each. The Early years one being entitled How Early Years Multiple Providers Work.
The report details Ofsted’s research undertaken with their own colleagues, a series of ‘multiple providers’, classified as any nursery or pre-school with 2 or more settings, interviewing the provider themselves and sending out questionnaires to managers across their settings.
The results make interesting, yet not unsurprising, conclusions relating to the influences that multiple providers have over their individual nurseries. The report drills down into areas such as policies and procedure, staff training & recruitment, the curriculum, EYPP and budgets. As a provider with 6 nursery settings I found I was able to make some comparisons as to how we oversee and deliver our childcare services and what managers views might be
With all these reports I would suggest there is a similar agenda – for Ofsted to be able to inspect multiple providers, social care groups or MAT’s at a higher level than they can now. Indeed they say themselves ‘Today’s reports call for stronger regulatory powers to make sure multiple providers and groups are having a positive impact on children.’
What this might look like in practice of course is subject to conjecture. These could be additional inspections or, if we look to the childminding agency model – where the authority to deliver quality is given to the agency rather than the childminder – this could be another way to being in these group provider inspections. Of course the latter would help with the every decreasing budget and diminishing inspector numbers that we hear of from time to time.
So is there a threat here? If we have one main group provider inspection, if there were weaknesses found could all nurseries be under threat? Or could it be that if the main group provider was good and nurseries are not inspected, there could be individual nurseries who are failing children – let’s remember Ofsted say this is to make sure multiple providers are having a positive impact on children.
Or will we see some sort of hybrid model introduced, which reduces the need to inspect every single nursery yet requires multiple providers to demonstrate how their governance works in practice. Only time will tell what will come of this research, I predict though yet another change is in the not too distant future – following in the footsteps of the MAT’s, except of course Ofsted have regulatory powers with our sector, which may impact us more than with the MAT’s.
About the author: Tricia Wellings
Tricia qualified as an NNEB and achieved a BA (Hons) in Early Education Studies and Early Years Teacher Status. She obtained her PTLLS and CTTLS in order to teach adults and most recently her A1 assessors’ award. She has run a group of day nurseries for 22 years and trains her own teams.
Her passion for and knowledge of owning and running a nursery group and the issues within the sector that affect them is second to none. She continues to keep herself updated through regular meetings with PVI groups, Local Authorities & Conferences. She also Chairs the West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation.
Tricia now also works with other nursery owners in helping them grow their businesses. You can find out more about Tricia on her website www.triciawellings.com