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Early years inspectors told to focus on quality of teaching and learning in nurseries

Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, has called on early years inspectors to focus on “evaluating whether children are being adequately prepared for the start of their statutory schooling”.

In his letter, which he has written to all early years inspectors in England setting out what he expects them to look for when visiting early years settings, Sir Michael prioritizes ‘teaching and learning’.

He says: “Too many reports focus on describing the provision in early years settings rather than on how well children are learning and making progress. In other words, inspectors should focus on evaluating whether children are being adequately prepared for the start of their statutory schooling.

“Research shows that children’s development is at its greatest between birth and five. Therefore, the activities they do are absolutely crucial in giving them a good start in life. This is especially important for children from poor backgrounds.”

He says that children as young as two can be taught a range of things, such as learn new vocabulary and begin to use it in a meaningful way, recognise and sing nursery rhymes and familiar songs, enjoy listening to stories and looking at picture books and starting to get dressed and undressed.

Sir Michael tells inspectors to observe how well adults help children to learn, teach children to listen to instructions and be attentive, teach children the early stages of mathematics and reading and challenge children to think and find out more.

Inspectors must expect adults to provide more than just supervision and care for children, he said and need to consider if staff sufficiently focus on children’s learning and whether staff have sufficient expertise to teach children basic skills in the three prime areas of learning as well as in literacy and mathematics.

“In summary, inspectors should report on what makes teaching and assessment effective rather than on its style,” he added.

Sir Michael emphasised the importance of a child being ‘school-ready’ saying “I expect reports to be clear about the extent to which a provider prepares children for school.” In November 2013, Ofsted launched a revised early years inspection framework, emphasising that nothing less than good provision is acceptable.

To read the letter go to

April 2014