How Ofsted will inspect Reception classes next year

Ofsted sets out how its inspections will work in Reception classes once the new early years foundation stage framework launches

John Roberts

Ofsted: How will watchdog inspection reception classes from September?

Ofsted has set out what it will look for when inspecting the education being provided by schools for the Reception year from September.

It comes as a new statutory framework for the early years foundation stage is being introduced by the government.

Here are the key points from a new Ofsted report on what it will look for from EYFS provision in schools from the start of the new academic year.


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Does Ofsted expect the national curriculum to start when children first join primary school?

The EYFS framework sets out seven areas of learning that should be covered.

These comprise three prime areas – communication and language; physical development; and personal, social and emotional development – then four specific areas: literacy; maths; understanding the world; and expressive arts and design.

Ofsted’s new report acknowledges that the seven areas do not map precisely to national curriculum subject areas.

However, it says inspectors will want to understand how the curriculum in early years is built on in key stage 1.

It gives the example that in history, inspectors will look at what foundational knowledge children learn about the world around them and about the past, during their Reception year.

Ofsted are not expecting to see curriculum maps

The inspectorate has said that it is keen to bust the myth that it is expecting to see curriculum maps for every area of learning in early years.

The new report adds, however, that inspectors will want to understand how schools design the curriculum in early years to give children the foundational knowledge and understanding they will need for KS1 and for the rest of their schooling.

Ofsted said that curriculum planning does not need to be in any specific format but that leaders need to justify these plans based on what they want children to encounter, explore and learn in school.

Assessment shouldn’t get in the way of getting to know children, Ofsted says

Ofsted’s report says that “getting to know children and finding out what they know and can do is something early years practitioners are skilled at”.

“This is what is important. Whatever ‘system’ schools have in place for the assessment of young children shouldn’t take adults away from those important interactions.”

Some critics of the baseline tests taken at the start of formal education make a similar criticism of the assessment.  

Will Ofsted prefer to see paper assessments or digital?

The report says that there is no prescribed way of carrying out or recording assessments “as long as it is effective and helps children’s learning, development and progress”.

When carrying out 'deep dives', will inspectors want to see national curriculum subjects or EYFS areas of learning being taught in Reception?

Ofsted says the curriculum should cover the seven areas of learning in the EYFS framework and that early years leaders also need to ensure that children experience a curriculum "that is broad, ambitious and prepares them for their next stage of learning".

It adds: “When carrying out deep dives in subjects, inspectors will not specifically look for or expect discrete lessons or teaching in those deep-dive subjects.

"But they will be looking at foundational knowledge in that subject that forms a natural part of some of those 7 areas of learning.

"This is the foundational knowledge that prepares children for learning in that subject from Year 1 onwards."

Ofsted wants to see how schools adapted provision to meet pupils' needs during the Covid crisis

Ofsted has said it will not judge schools negatively on how they might have stripped back their EYFS provision during the pandemic.

It highlights how, for instance, some schools may have run Covid-safe provision involving no soft furnishings, dressing-up clothes, pillows or cosy spaces, and no sand or water.

The report adds: “However, we will seek to understand how a school adapted and prioritised what it did to get the best results for children throughout this period.

“Inspectors will also want to see the extent to which leaders have designed an ambitious and well-sequenced early years curriculum, how they are addressing any disruption, and how they are ensuring that any gaps in knowledge are closed so children are prepared for their next stage of education.”

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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