Sunday, 9 March 2014

Making complaints about childminder inspections

There are a number of ways you can complain about your Ofsted inspection if you do not feel that the judgement is correct. The best time to complain is before the inspector leaves your house! You can save yourself a lot of time and worry if you sit down with the inspector and explain why you think s/he is making the wrong judgement.

Here are some ways to complain if you think your inspector is making an incorrect judgement...

• Get out your copy of the EYFS and point them to the relevant requirement
• Bring up a relevant Ofsted guidance document on your computer and find the statement
• Provide some evidence to prove that your procedures are correct
• Ask the inspector to clarify what they are saying with a colleague
• Ring the Ofsted helpline and ask for advice – 0300 123 1231

If you know you are right say so – be confident – don’t argue with your inspector – keep it professional but don’t be pushed into accepting a judgement that you know is wrong!

Immediately after your inspection...
There are 2 companies which carry out inspections on behalf of Ofsted – Prospects and Tribal. If you have not complained during your inspection, you can put in a complaint to the company direct – you should do this as quickly as possible after taking advice from colleagues and reviewing your understanding of the EYFS.

You can also ring the Ofsted helpline (ask for name of the person you speak to and record date and time) before you write your letter - ask them to clarify the points you want to make.

Include the facts – keep it as unemotional as possible. You will need to include information about...

• Your details so they can write back to you
• Date and time of inspection
• Inspector’s name
• What the inspector said – if your issue is that the inspector said something that isn’t within the EYFS / Childcare Register requirements
• How the inspector behaved – if your issue is that the inspector did not follow their code of practice
• The facts – quoting from the EYFS / Childcare Register requirements.
• The facts – quoting from the Ofsted ‘Conducting early years inspections’ document – but do remember ‘Conducting early years inspections’ is guidance, not statutory and if your inspection is as a result of a complaint the inspector might focus on one area of provision to the exclusion of all else
• What you want to happen next – do you want a re-inspection or change of wording or to speak to an inspector or something else?

Note that very few of these complaints are currently upheld ... Prospects and Tribal investigate their own complaints internally. Most providers (including childminders) should expect to receive a ‘no’ response to this letter.

What to do next...
Your next complaint letter goes directly to Ofsted. This is a very important letter because you are informing Ofsted that there is a problem with one of the people inspecting on their behalf or one of the companies they employ.
Repeat your concerns about your inspection clearly.

Ofsted will look into your complaint... even if they do not find in your favour, they will add the comments in your letter to others they receive. The information you share with Ofsted will tell them about –

• How well Prospects or Tribal are inspecting
• Whether there are certain Prospects or Tribal inspectors who are getting more complaints against them than others
• Areas of the EYFS on which they need to focus inspector

Ofsted (via the Ofsted Big Conversation) have told us that they are listening to early years providers and that they are aware we are losing faith in their complaints procedures. However, it is very important that we continue to complain – if we are right and we raise our points professionally and carefully we can make a difference to our own inspection outcomes and, by ensuring our concerns are logged, we can make a difference in the future as well.

And if that doesn’t work... there are other complaints you can make if you do not receive the response you were hoping for from Ofsted. However, these complaints will not change anything – they will not change your judgement or the wording in your report or result in a re-inspection. They will simply check that Prospects / Tribal / Ofsted have followed correct procedures.

You need to make your complaint letters count! You are not alone during this process. Ask for help – childminder colleagues will proof read your letters for you and might be able to signpost you to different requirements and guidance that can give you the evidence you need to make a successful complaint. Some childminders still have access to Local Authority advisors who should be able to support them as well.

There is a wealth of information and advice out there for childminders to access via the Childminding Forum and Independent Childminders Facebook group.

There are a number of e-books from Knutsford Childminding which will offer you CPD support to help you prepare for your inspection -

E-book 63 contains a pre-inspection checklist for childminders which will help you to prepare for inspection (1 chapter - £3.99) ... e-book 67 works through the latest evaluation schedule to support you during your inspection (2 chapters - £4.99).

If you have any questions, please ask! Sarah / Knutsford Childminding