Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf….
Once upon a time there was a girl called Little Red Riding Hood.
One day she decided that she loved learning so much that she wanted to help children have fun and learn new things. So, she decided to work in Early Years. Off she went into the wide, open fields and leafy, green hedgerows of Early Years. As she skipped along through the fields she found that the children she met were excited and curious and she learnt many new things from them. Little Red Riding Hood loved her job, even though the pay was low and the hours were long. And she always wanted to do the best job that she could.
One day her mother said “If you want to be the best you can be, then you need to get an Outstanding Ofsted.” “What do I need to get one of those?” asked Little Red Riding Hood.
“Well” said her mother “here is your basket of ‘Preparing for Ofsted’ goodies with everything you need. But do watch out for the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf (BBO) – you never know when he might appear”
Well, thought Red Riding Hood, Ofsted is a scary word but what does that really mean for me every day with my lovely children? As she thought about it she realised that outstanding quality might look different in each nursery that Ofsted visited. But her basket of goodies had some exciting things in it. There was the currant bun of skills and confidence. How wonderful she thought. So I need to show the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf how we’ve helped those little ones who were very nervous when they started, but are now happy and settled. I need to make sure the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf sees their ability and confidence in climbing trees, looking after their friends and making cakes; especially when they were very worried about even leaving mummy when they first came in. Those skills might not look very great or have a quality that was easy to measure but Little Red Riding Hood knew they were invaluable for those precious little learners.
Maybe I need to have some great stories to tell the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf, she thought. Maybe quality isn’t all about gathering information through assessments, results and grades, maybe it is more about telling the story of each child. Yes, thought Red Riding Hood, talking about children’s skills and confidence is a very important item in my basket of ‘Preparing for Ofsted’ goodies.
Then she found a delicious listening sandwich tucked away in her picnic basket. That’s a wonderful thing to have in my basket of goodies, she thought. I love listening to children, to their plans and ideas, to their worries and problems and to their dreams and stories. And I know how important it is to listen to parents.
Little Red Riding Hood thought about how little time anyone had to listen to each other nowadays. She loved to listen as children acted out their lives, and she knew so much about each one and understood them so well. I need to make sure the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf listens to the children, she thought. And he needs to listen to the parents and their experiences. That’s definitely a tasty morsel to give the BBO when I meet him.
So Little Red Riding Hood gathered up her basket of goodies and headed through the dark, gloomy SEF forest and on to Grandma’s house. There was Grandma tucked up in bed. But something seemed to be very wrong. It looked like Grandma…..but it sounded like the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf.
“Why Grandma” said little Red Riding Hood, “What big eyes you have.”
“All the better to observe you with” said the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf. “I’m going to look closely at EVERYTHING you do in the Early Years inspection. I’m going to look closely at every interaction and scrutinise every move you make. My big eyes will be watching you through my joint observation window and my tracking children binoculars.”
“Why Grandma” said Little Red Riding Hood, “What big ears you have.”
“All the better to hear you with” said the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf. “I’m going to listen to all your questions and discussions to hear if there is stretch and challenge. And I want to hear assessment, recapping and differentiation of activities all the time. And if I don’t hear the child’s voice then you will be in big trouble!”
“Why Grandma, what big teeth you have” said Little Red Riding Hood.
“All the better to eat up every minute of your spare time” said the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf. “If I don’t get detailed planning, excellent outcomes, innovative partnership with parents and comprehensive characteristics of effective learning…………then I’m coming to gobble you up!”
With that the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf leapt out of bed.
Just at that moment the woodcutter of Teaching and Play burst through the door.
“I’ll save you” she shouted, and she swung her axe of ‘no preferred style of teaching’ over the wolf’s head. Quick as a flash the Big Bad Wolf was gone !
“How can I ever thank you?” asked Little Red Riding Hood.
“Well” replied the woodcutter, “Take my axe of ‘no preferred style of teaching’ and use it wisely in the Early Years fields of learning. Why don’t you let your children choose what they want to cook and help them find the recipes? And why don’t you abandon your lesson plans that go weeks ahead, and listen to your children’s chatter? Then you can show the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf how that is meeting the needs of all your children.” “Why don’t you go for a walk to talk about the birds and plants, and climb trees. And why don’t you let the children mix and pour and tip and create and run and jump and laugh and sing and dance? Why don’t you let them make the rules in nursery to think about how to keep everyone safe and secure?
Don’t let the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf gobble up your enthusiasm and skills. Show him what a great job you do in the Early Years fields.”
Little Red Riding Hood was so relieved that she skipped off towards the River of Equality and Diversity with a song in her heart. As she came up to the bridge her way was blocked by the Big Ugly Troll of Legislation. But there was no stopping Red Riding Hood now. She reached into her basket of preparing for Ofsted goodies, and took out her risk assessment pie and her policies cake and launched them into the river. The Big Ugly Troll jumped in after them, ate his fill, sank to the bottom, and was never seen again.
As Red Riding Hood headed for home she wondered if her long days in the SEF forest and the hours baking her risk assessment pie had really accomplished anything, or helped the children blossom and flourish. Then she remembered some of the stories she knew about her little ones. She especially remembered Goldilocks.
When Goldilocks started in the Early Learning fields two years ago, how nervous she had been. Too scared to even build with the bricks or try and pour her own drink. And how moving it had been when Goldilocks poured the drink for all the children; and climbed to the first branch on the smallest tree.
Red Riding Hood remembered when Jack and Jill had started. They had hardly spoken to each other the first week, but over the weeks they became good friends and helped each other out. She proudly remembered how they had built the well and how much they laughed and giggled when carrying buckets of water around. “Oh wait” she suddenly said out loud, rummaging in her basket “now where did I put that vinegar and brown paper?”
Lucy Waterman © 2016