In the same week that our Prime Minister revealed potential plans to once again reduce our Early Years ratios in order to drive costs down and ease the cost of living but at the detriment to our staff, children and health and safety, OFSTED have also unveiled their Five Year Strategy for 2022-2027 and as with most ‘guidance’ and updates our Government put out for our sector, it feels somewhat like they are missing the point.
Whilst we welcome that they didn’t release the document on a Sunday/Monday evening of the Bank Holiday weekend as seems to be the norm, you can’t help but wonder which members of the sector they have spoken to and incorporated into their decision making as they drafted this strategy and as such where the information included in the document has come from.
If you speak to many practitioners across the sector, most will tell you that they were not asked for their views or feedback and are too questioning the validity of the statements made within the new strategy.
As with most updates for our sector, it feels significantly like the Government and OFSTED are working to their own agenda without taking into account what the sector actually needs and has been asking for some time now, instead detailing what they believe we need and how they will be the ones to help us achieve this, despite their views and ideas being starkly different to the views of our sector and the workforce on the ground.
As with any new guidance, legislation or ‘advice’ from above, changes, and even just potential talk of change or upheaval can be traumatic for practitioners on the ground and owners/leaders alike as once again we second guess, pre-empt and worry about the impact that new information and guidance will have on not only the sector, but our individual settings and the wellbeing of our staff and children simultaneously.
This is why we must not allow this constant tirade of negativity and concern we receive from the news, media and the publications themselves impact upon our mental wellbeing nor our practice; naturally this is easier said than done, but we must read the documents and advice, of course have an opinion and consider how these will affect us, but we must always prioritise doing what is best for our children and staff over the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘maybes’.
We must do what we can to ensure we are keeping our children safe, legally meeting all of the safeguarding requirements and ensuring our recruitment and management procedures are conducive with running a safe and efficient business.
As a sector, we have already been put under increasing undue pressure from the Government and OFSTED themselves, particularly during the pandemic when we did not receive adequate support, guidance or financial support, forever the ‘Forgotten Sector’ it seems but we cannot allow this to affect our day to day practice.
A the forefront of our minds we must always follow the needs of our children and staff, and if we believe that something we are being ‘advised’ to do goes against our ethos, pedagogy and most importantly compromises upon health and safety and/or children’s wellbeing as well as their learning and development opportunities, then frankly we must stand our ground and do what is best for the needs of our setting and everyone within it.
The Government and OFSTED are going to continue to bring out new documents, guidance and make questionable claims and promises about the future of our sector, we cannot control this, but we can control how we react to it, and essentially what parts of it, if any, we implement.
In some instances (most actually!) in these events, we really do know best in terms of what will work best for oru children, staff and families and as long as we can stand firm and stand by our decisions when we are invariably questioned and inspected by OFSTED, then we are already doing the best job we can.