Early years practitioners report ‘burdensome’ paperwork leads to duplication and inconsistency

Olivia Rook
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Nearly half of the survey respondents said they had received conflicting information from agencies and organisations about how to report incidents or concerns in their setting.

DfE and the Local Government Association are planning to work with local authorities to ease the paperwork burden placed on providers.
DfE and the Local Government Association are planning to work with local authorities to ease the paperwork burden placed on providers.

Early years practitioners believe they are completing more paperwork than is necessary, according to the results of a survey.

Over 80 per cent felt they were completing more than is required by the EYFS, citing factors such as Ofsted inspections, inconsistent internal processes and complex SEND applications as being responsible for the increased demand.

The workload survey was led by the Early Years Alliance, in partnership with Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE). It was carried out in response to the Alliance’s Minds Matter research on mental health in the early years sector, which found that 78 per cent of practitioners rated administration and paperwork as being regular sources of stress.

Nearly half of the 1,261 respondents that answered the workload survey said they had received conflicting information from agencies and organisations about how to report incidents or concerns, and 20 per cent said completion of local authority paperwork led to duplication.

Of the respondents who had experienced more than one Ofsted inspection, over half felt paperwork expectations were ‘not at all’ or ‘not really’ consistent across inspections.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance said: ‘We’re pleased that Ofsted and the Department for Education have agreed that our top priorities must be to address the ‘just in case’ approach we have heard so much about from the providers who took part in our research, as well as inconsistency, duplication and complexity at local authority level.

‘No paperwork should be so burdensome that it causes stress or directs time and attention away from the learning experience of the child. This is why we are working to develop practical solutions so that providers can feel more confident during Ofsted inspections and when working with local authorities.’

Wendy Ratcliff, an Ofsted inspector specialising in early years, said: ‘We hear all sorts of myths about what paperwork inspectors might want to see, particularly around assessment. We shared the important findings of this survey during our recent inspector training. Inspectors and providers involved in EIF pilot inspections said they welcome the move away from looking at assessment data.’

The new inspection framework
The new Ofsted inspection framework, which came into effect this September, aims to focus more on observation, exploring whether nurseries and schools achieve their results via broad and rich learning or last-minute cramming. Early years settings will also be evaluated on their ‘cultural capital’, which is how well practitioners ensure the curriculum is used to enhance children’s learning experiences.

Ms Ratcliff continued: ‘The early years inspection handbook makes clear that we’ll spend most of the inspection observing and discussing children’s experiences and learning, and not looking at unnecessary paperwork. We continue to work hard to bust myths about inspection and paperwork. We’ll keep these survey findings under review as we introduce the new framework.’

DfE and the Local Government Association are planning further work to engage with local authorities with the aim of understanding what paperwork requirements are placed on providers, and how they might be better streamlined in the future.

Review of 2014 SEND reforms
With a third of respondents stating that applying for SEND funding was burdensome, and a further quarter reporting SEND action plans put an unnecessary strain on settings, the review of the 2014 SEND reforms comes at a crucial moment.

Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans were introduced in 2014 to help children and young people with SEND plan for their futures and achieve better outcomes. The plans are drawn up by the local authority after an Education, Health and Care needs assessment has been carried out.

The new review will look at how the system has evolved since 2014 and how consistent quality of provision can be ensured country wide. It will seek to ensure that public money is spent in an efficient, effective and sustainable way.

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