Nursery inspectors offer valuable outside advice

21st February 1997 at 00:00
I read with interest Linda Blackburne's article on the nursery voucher inspection scheme "Play is the pivot" (TES, Early Years Extra, January 31). However, the starting point of the inspection process, the Framework and Desirable Learning Outcomes, seems to be being dismissed. When settings apply to join the voucher scheme (and they are not forced to go down this route) they agree to adhere to certain educational criteria. So why should the Office for Standards in Education "accept on our terms" nurseries that don't fit the mould?

The setting is given a detailed information pack with samples of the inspectors' notebook and report before the inspection takes place. They know what the inspector is looking for.

Registered Nursery Inspectors come from sound early-years backgrounds and they are trained by OFSTED to undertake inspections of the settings that are taking, or about to take, vouchers. They look closely at the six desirable learning outcomes and mark down the strengths and weaknesses of each setting.

There is a place in our educational system for nurseries with specific philosophies but if they join the voucher scheme the expectation is that they will follow the framework and be judged on the criteria it contains.

With specific reference to Wendy de Vere's Montessori nurseries, both the Centre for British Teachers inspectors referred to have knowledge of the Montessori method - one inspector having lectured on the topic. It is a fact that part of the OFSTED training course devotes time to the philosophies that "don't fit the mould". It is a pity that Ms Blackburne did not contact either ourselves or the inspector to give her article a balanced view.

Irrespective of one's position on the issue of nursery vouchers, the inspection process is working well. Many nurseries and playgroups have had no outside educational advice for many years, if ever, and many we have inspected view this process as developmental. Standards have to be raised, our children deserve that, and inspection is a valuable way forward that should not be discounted.

JOHN HASLETT

Director of UK operations Centre for British Teachers London House London Street Reading

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