Examination of Witnesses (Question 60-75)|
21 MAY 2008
Q60 Chairman: But
in Steiner, you do not object to inspection on principle?
Sylvie Sklan: Oh, no, absolutely
Chairman: Do you, Graham? I understood
that Open EYE did not believe that the independent sector should
Graham Kennish: I do not go along
with that at all. I would say that the whole issue of inspection
by Ofsted is linked entirely to the targets. We come back to the
targets. Ofsted arrives and every setting knows that it is under
the test whether or not it is fulfilling the targets. That pressure,
which goes down to the children, will be quite clear and obvious.
It is totally obvious to me; I cannot imagine how it is not obvious
to those who are proposing this scheme. Last week, in a conversation
in which Annette was trying to probe the Chief Inspector about
the training of inspectors, she was trying to pursue the differenceI
do not know whether or not she succeeded; I felt that she did
notbetween training inspectors for inspecting early years
provision and having early years inspectors who had been practitioners
themselves and knew exactly what young children were all about.
Let me give you a quick analogy. I would not want a mechanical
engineer who has been given some training in electricity to inspect
an electrical installation. I would not feel safe at all. That
is an horrendous analogy, but it is effectively what is being
proposed. It is not just the training for inspection that they
need, but also the inner experience of practice.
Chairman: Graham, we remember last Wednesday
Q61 Paul Holmes: Last Wednesday,
the Chief Inspector said that Ofsted inspectors are aware of the
different types of school and that they are not applying the same
criteria everywhere. I reminded the Chief Inspector that Summerhill
School had been failed by Ofsted. The school ended up taking Ofsted
to court with judicial review to avoid being closed down. Are
you confident at Steiner schools that Ofsted will take into account
the variation in style and approach?
Sylvie Sklan: At this stage, I
do not know whether we can say that we are confident, because
we have not got there yet. We have to put in place all the systems
to ensure that such accidents do not occurby that I mean
inspectors using the wrong criteria by which to judge our EY settings.
As I said, it would be good to have a much more robust and objective
system in place that is linked to the guidance of the framework
to ensure that it is not all down to good faith and working with
the inspectors who are about to visit.
Q62 Paul Holmes: Finally, one of
the big things that we identified in the recent report on assessment
and testing was the difference between assessment for learningof
the childand assessment for testing the school, to see
how it is achieving, effectively. From five to 19, it has become
distorted, in that you are using the test results and the assessment
to judge the school and to say, "That's good; that's bad;
you're failing and you're excellent," rather than looking
at the pupils' progress. Even more at this stage, nought to five,
how do we avoid that distortion? If Ofsted are coming in and are
going to say, "That's good; that's bad; you pass; and you
fail," how do we make sure that the assessment of the child
at two, three or four is about assessing the child for learning,
to see where they have got to, and where we move on to next, rather
than ticking boxes, so that Ofsted will give the setting a good
Chairman: That is a good question and
a long question, but, Morag, I shall ask you for quite a quick
Morag Stuart: The quick answer
would be that the only wayI keep coming back to staff trainingis
that staff have to understand child development. They have to
understand the range of behaviours that can be observed at given
ages and the desirable outcomes that a typically developing child
ought to be able to achieve. It is staff knowledge and understanding
of child development that will allow them to do that.
Q63 Paul Holmes: Ofsted staff?
Morag Stuart: Practitioner staff
and Ofsted staff.
Anne Nelson: Just to give an example
of the opposite to the question you are asking about the negative
impact of Ofsted, the outcome of nursery schools inspections last
year. They would mainly be inspected by a practitioner who is
also an Ofsted inspector. The nursery schools came out as 95%
good or outstanding. That knowledge basethe experience
which is therecorrelates with a thorough understanding
of that and a good self-evaluation process. It is a very good
example of Ofsted working, I think. But again, the headteacher
and the staff would be fully qualified.
Q64 Paul Holmes: But Ofsted also,
every month, judges 60 day care settings and 80 childminders as
inadequate, so people who work in those settings must be thinking,
"What boxes have I got to tick to please Ofsted?"
Anne Nelson: And it dominates
their lives. When I am training them I say, "Why do you do
so much written planning?" and they say, "In case Ofsted
come in tomorrow." It is a heavy pressure on them.
Q65 Annette Brooke: Can I just pick
up on childminding, which takes us into the next session? Anne
has mentioned the importance of training. As far as I can see,
childminding has become a professionmuch to be welcomedwith
the encouragement of qualifications. What exactlyor how
big, I supposeis the hurdle going into the Early Years
Foundation Stage? The sort of things that have been presented
to me are that, obviously, childminders are not really in a position
to access local authority courses during the day. They have to
pay extra money for courses. It is all very difficult for them.
Yet I think things went fairly smoothly in terms of the NVQs and
so on. So Anne, there might not be the wonderful child centre
on the doorstep, which can support a childminder, but what about
those hundreds and hundreds of people in that valuable part of
Anne Nelson: They do access courses
and of course, as you say, training. They have to do it at a time
when the children are not there, which means Saturdays. You can
talk within that about equality and the workforce, although in
early years, we have never had a great deal of funding to release
people in the day time for training. So there are some issues.
I think that what they seem most concerned aboutI do not
pretend to speak for them as an organisation, although increasingly
we do have more childminders in our membershipis the writing
down of reports on the children all the time and that the legislation
is mainly about learning. I have just been training in observation
and the issue is that they interpret observation as a written
observation on every child for every moment of the day, whereas
if you are properly trained in observation, a lot of what you
observe is here, in your head, and you write down the significant
things within that. I think that more is expected of them
than ever before, but when you publish something like EYFS, myths
grow up and people get worried and scared. They would need reassurance
from their local authorities about what is manageable. We saw
the same in out-of-school care, with people threatening that,
if they had to do the EYFS, they would not have children under
five in their out-of-school care. That has been clarified for
them, so I think that there is a great need for the Government,
local authorities and organisations like ours to try to get that
in perspective for people. Doing so is a challenge, and I would
not underestimate it.
Q66 Annette Brooke: Would you rank
that as urgent, given the rapid fall in the number of childminders
over the past year?
Anne Nelson: It is urgent, not
just because we do not want to lose those people and that choice
for parents, but because childminders are a big part of the market
for local authorities in providing a sufficiency of childcare.
This is urgent from the perspective of local authorities, too.
However, it is urgent mainly because we do not want to lose the
perspective and choice for parents.
Q67 Chairman: Anne, could it be that
the marginal childminder is being pushed out of the market, rather
than that anything unpleasant is going on? We do not want the
marginal and not very good providers. In my area, as children's
centres have developed, the whole pre-school market has changed
Anne Nelson: I hope that EYFS
has done enough to set some standards, so that if childminders
or group settings are not up to quality, they will go out of the
market. Perhaps that sometimes happens through lack of knowledge.
Childminding cannot be an easy way to earn a living, because you
do not know when you will get children or how many you will get
and you do not get any breaks in the day. It is quite a challenge
to work like that. Working with young children is exhausting. I
share the hint that, if people are not up to scratch, they should
not be in the market. I think that the expectation of standards
is important. However, when I work with settings or individuals,
those who are not all right think that they are all right and
those who are all right continually question their practice and
raise their aspirations. There must be something external to help
them see what their quality is.
Q68 Chairman: So there is some value
Anne Nelson: I think that there
is some value in Ofsted.
Chairman: I have dragged it out of you,
Anne Nelson: Well, it must be
recognised that Ofsted provides merely a snapshotas you
are well awareand it is not a stick to beat people with.
Ofsted can inspect only against the standards set by the Government.
The value comes in what you do afterwards.
Chairman: We are running out of time.
Annette, do you want to say anything about workforce issues?
Q69 Annette Brooke: Yes, perhaps
I could try to pull it all together. A view has been put this
morning that the Early Years Foundation Stage is critical to pulling
up standards for all. That is a fair point. Equally, there are
issues about qualifications and the experience of the workforce.
My question is a bit chicken and egg, but is the issue whether
we should be putting the Early Years Foundation Stage in the hands
of the under-qualified workforce, or will the existence of the
framework add to the quality of the workforce? Have we got the
timing right on the two issues of the quality and the workforce?
Anne Nelson: Over the past few
years in early years, we have developed quantity. Now we are focusing
quite hard on quality. As well as EYFS, there is a Government
early years quality programme. You cannot have that quality without
well qualified staff. It is quite clear that that is a prerequisite.
The Scandinavian countries that we heard about earlier have a
much higher level of qualification than this country. The principles
and the commitments in the document are very laudable, but there
is a danger in the way that the learning and development grids
have been presented. They could be misused by those who do not
have the right child development knowledge. That is a major concern
for us. To throw another aspect in, there is confusion about the
role of the Early Years Professional. The Government's view is
that that person will lead the learning, certainly in the PVI
sectors, and that teachers will still lead the learning in the
state maintained sector. However, being an EYP is not a qualification,
but a status. In some cases, for instance, people have taken the
EYP route immediately after their degrees. In my experience as
a teacher and practitioner, you have got to have some experience
before you can lead others in the learning. I am pretty sure that
that will not help in the challenge of raising the qualification,
which Annette mentioned, so I think that we have to go for qualifications
to make it better.
Q70 Annette Brooke: Is that slowing
down the implementation of the statutory requirements?
Chairman: You only get two questions
to each person.
Anne Nelson: I do not think that
you can slow it down. I want to get those two points across.
Morag Stuart: I think that training
does improve quality. Certainly, the training that the CLLD team
has put into the early reading development project has raised
the expectations of teachers, the achievements of children and
the confidence of both. As I have said, I think that all early
years practitioners should have a good understanding of child
Q71 Chairman: Morag, if you know
that there are problems in early years that cost a lot of resource
to sort out and that it is very expensive to totally change the
quality of your workforce, by paying and training them better,
is not the Early Years Foundation really a different way of trying
to achieve that, but with much less resource?
Morag Stuart: Do you mean putting
a programme in place?
Morag Stuart: I do not think that
it will work if you do not have the training.
Q72 Chairman: So, do you have to
Morag Stuart: Absolutely.
Q73 Chairman: Is there a sign that
the Government are doing both?
Morag Stuart: I think that some
encouraging things are going on, but not enough.
Chairman: Annette, do you have anything
else to ask?
Annette Brooke: No, I think that
you drew out what I am trying to get people to comment on.
Chairman: Does anyone else want to come
in on that last one, on the chicken and egg?
Graham Kennish: No training programme
can deliver anything; the people who deliver it and who form the
relationship with the practitioners form the training. Teaching
is a process of relationship, and no programme will do anything
because it is the relationship between people that does things.
It is the relationship between the carers and the children that
inspires their self-confidence and self-worth. All other aspects
of learning follow from that process, and all good teaching, at
whatever age, inspires the qualities that that unique child has
at that time. A teacher's timing is to time what is needed at
a certain moment. It is a very subtle process, which gets less
subtle as you go up. Although you have to take a set of exams
at 16, as you come down, lower and lower, the subtlety and power
of that process reaches down into the element of play. That aspect
of play is the most subtle, creative and dynamic aspect, and until
practitioners have really understood the nature of play, for instance,
it is not something that you can put into a programme.
Q74 Chairman: But, Graham, when I
heard your colleague, Anna, speak earlier, I got the impression
that one of the things that Open EYE is worried about is that,
although you are able to squeeze out the person who is good at
that, they are unqualified.
Graham Kennish: Absolutely, but
there are two things there. If you have someone who is unqualified,
disaffected and not particularly interested in children, you have
a double negative whammy. It is certainly true that someone who
has a real love for and interest in the children around them will
probably, unconsciously and intuitively, give a great deal of
support to a child's emotional development.
Q75 Chairman: But surely Open EYE
does not believe that you should train them for that.
Graham Kennish: Absolutely not,
there should be a training, but the danger with training is that
you become over-professionalised. It is rather similar to the
dilemma that we faced in the last session, where one had to confess
that the experts disagreed vigorously with one another, as we
heard them do. Within the training of professionalism, it is very
important to realise that professionals and experts disagree,
and there needs to be that fructification of the alternative view
points that professionals bring, so that they can allow a creative
process. We can never say that we now know what a child is all
about, because we clearly have a lot to learn about what children
are really about and what the nature of play is and all of those
things. If we said to parents that we know what that is, we disempower
them and others who would seek to be innovative. That disempowerment
comes from the statutory imposition of goals and targets.
Chairman: Graham, thank you very much.
This has been an excellent panel and we learnt a lot. I know that
you will keep in touch, so that we can make the inquiry as good
as it can be.
Graham Kennish: Thank you very
much for offering us this space.
Chairman: Thank you.