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How Parents Are About to Get a Much Bigger Chance to Influence Ofsted's Rating of Their Children's Nursery

02/07/2015 11:14 BST | Updated 01/07/2016 10:59 BST

Parents are set to get more involvement in Ofsted inspections, following a successful campaign by National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) for inspections with notice at early years settings in England.

From September, nurseries will get a phone call the day before inspection, as part of the new Common Inspection Framework.

Schools have always had this courtesy, so that they can call in necessary governors, as have childminders, due to the practical need to be home when an inspector calls.

So the playing field between these different types of nursery provision is about to be levelled, for the first time.

So far, so good. Some people imagine this call will be a cue to race around, tidying up and filling walls with beautiful new arrays of children's paintings.

But as any good nursery knows, such last-minute action would be pointless and only succeed in creating an atmosphere of panic.

Inspectors are much more interested in how settings focus on children, rather than whether books are arranged neatly on the shelves.

Aside from keeping calm and carrying on, NDNA's early years advisers suggest two key courses of action during those few hours' notice.

The first is to call in an extra employee or two for the following day, if possible, to make sure senior staff are free to look after the inspector - though in practice, they will spend only an hour or so with managers, and are equally, if not more, keen to see what's happening between children and practitioners.

The second, and I would suggest, most important, step is to alert parents to the impending inspection - an action that nurseries have not been able to take before.

Why? Because inspectors are very interested in the views of mums, dads and carers.

So, the new notice period is set to afford families a much greater influence over inspectors' verdicts by giving them a more sporting chance of being involved.

At present, all nurseries can do is to contact parents on the day, when the inspector is already there and time is precious, to ask whether they could spend a few minutes talking about their experience of your nursery at pick-up.

The chances are, they won't be able to spare the time without a bit more warning and their valuable feedback cannot then be heard or factored in. A frustrating situation for everyone.

Parents' written testimonials, too, can be shown to inspectors - but few and far between are the ones who'd be able or willing to sit down and compose this within an hour or two of asking.

Now that parents can be alerted to Ofsted's visit the day before, they're much more likely to be able to allow time at drop-off or pick-up for a face to face chat about what their child is getting out of being at nursery.

Parents who don't get the opportunity to say it in person will also have an afternoon and evening to put their thoughts in writing.

For good-quality settings, the opportunity to give families a bigger involvement in inspection is perhaps the biggest potential benefit of this policy change.

So, get ready to harness that parent power!

Representatives from Ofsted are speaking at all NDNA's regional events this autumn. To find out more about events, resources, training and support go towww.ndna.org.uk