Subtracting Ofsted from the early childhood learning equation

April 12, 2013

Early childhood playToday we have a very special guest post, from none other than Grannie G, my mother-in-law and the original Gill Crawshaw (yes, it can get confusing at Christmas).

She’s been the manager of the lovely Slinn Street STARters Community Pre-school in Sheffield for 28 years and is passionate about the nurturing the happiness and well-being of pre-school children, and defending their right to play.

In recent years, she has become increasingly concerned about the impact of some of the Ofsted requirements on early years childcare, and is determined to make parents aware of the current situation and help them make an informed choice.

A very young ElizaThanks to Gill Junior for giving me the chance to hobble on to my soapbox and speak up for a young sector of society that is very close to my heart.

A child’s early years are so precious so let’s not, as the Government framework insists, channel them into preparing for what comes next. Let us rather enjoy, indulge and celebrate what the pre-school child can offer and what we can offer the pre-school child.

First time parents nowadays are faced with endless choices of pre-school or nursery. Childcare has become big business. We have all been appalled to read about the increased child ratios but changes will not stop there. It appears that when Ofsted becomes the sole arbiter of quality in the early years there will be even more focus on data relating to learning, development and progress while rules setting out the amount of space per child will be dropped. Stack them high sell them cheap?

The unhealthy emphasis on “clipboard” observations, tracking progress and achieving “school readiness” appears to be a short-term fix where the child’s long-term welfare (and short-term childhood) is secondary.

There is however a movement that is fighting back. I urge everyone to read the Unhurried Pathways Alternative Foundation Phase introduced by Early Childhood Action (ECA). It is inspiring.

Thanks Grannie Gill! You can read all about the ECA at

May 15th is National Children’s Day, set up to celebrate the rights and freedoms of children. In honour of the occasion, it will be den making day at the Slinn Street STARters. Which, I’m sure we can all agree, sounds like an awful lot of fun.


  • claire

    April 12, 2013 at 8:11 am

    agree wholeheartedly – a great post! Hard for us early years professionals not to become jaded with the constant emphasis on data and progress. I find it a constant battle between my instinct to nuture these little people and the requirement to achieve results and ‘fit in’ with the rest of the school.

  • Leoarna

    April 12, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Having previously been an inspector who often felt uncomfortable about enforcing things I didn’t really believe in, it is now liberating to be able to join in with the voices of thousands of providers who are endeavouring to protect British children’s childhoods. Will retweet, and so forth – this should be read by all. Thanks…

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