Nurseries and childminders to face tougher inspections

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Nurseries and childminders in England will face tougher inspections under proposals announced by Ofsted.

Under the plans, childcare providers currently classed as "satisfactory" will be dubbed "requiring improvement" and undergo extra inspections.

The move follows concerns that nurseries are not improving fast enough, particularly in deprived areas.

The Pre-School Learning Alliance warned that real improvements would require better funding for childcare.

Chief inspector of education Sir Michael Wilshaw announced a consultation on the proposals in a speech to an invited audience in London.

Similar changes were made to school inspection ratings last year.

'Raising expectations'

Ofsted says that evidence from inspections shows that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are not improving fast enough between inspections, particularly in poorer areas.

Sir Michael Wilshaw told the BBC the number of poor nurseries was "unacceptable"

The latest Ofsted figures show that in 2012 the majority of England's nurseries and childminders were judged "good" (62%) or "outstanding" (12%) by inspectors - but 25% were judged "satisfactory", with 1% classed as "inadequate".

Under the proposed changes from September, only "good" or better will be deemed acceptable by Ofsted.

The watchdog says the proposals "will raise expectations and tackle weaker settings".

Nurseries and pre-schools "requiring improvement" will undergo more frequent inspections and will have a maximum of four years to achieve a "good" rating.

Those that fail to do this are likely then to be judged "inadequate" and may face closure.

"We all know from the research that children's early years are a period of rapid development and vital for building a secure foundation for future personal and academic success," Sir Michael said.

"Parents, whatever their circumstances, want their children to access good-quality childcare and get a good early education that sets them up well for statutory schooling.

"Yet too many providers are not good enough, particularly in the most deprived areas. We must be tougher on weak settings."

Sir Michael added that Ofsted would encourage good or outstanding childcare providers to support weaker ones.

Ofsted's most recent report on early years providers said that, despite an overall improvement, many children were not well prepared for school, particularly in poor areas.

Start Quote

I want to see more teacher-led nursery classes where children are learning so that they arrive at school ready to progress”

End Quote Elizabeth Truss Education and childcare minister

The report, analysing inspection reports from 2011-12, said: "It is a concern that 34% of children are not working securely in communication, language and literacy by the end of the early years foundation stage.

"It is also worse in deprived areas, where 41% of children are not working securely in communication, language and literacy," it adds.

'Support and advice'

Sir Michael said that inspections would also include a focus on qualifications held by early years staff. Earlier this year the ministers announced plans to allow nurseries and childminders to look after more children, but only if there is a qualified graduate present.

Ministers also said it was not acceptable that childcare professionals are not required to have at least GCSE grade C in English and maths.

Commenting on Ofsted's announcement, education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss said: "I want to see more teacher-led nursery classes where children are learning so that they arrive at school ready to progress."

Prof Andy Goodwyn, of the University of Reading's Institute of Education, warned: "What the sector needs is not tougher inspection but better investment and a period of stability to allow its staff to build up their skills.

"It needs to become an attractive and high-status sector that can attract graduates who can see a real career path and a sustainable future. The very last thing it needs is more threats, disguised as yet another crusade to 'raise standards'."

Groups representing childcare providers broadly welcomed the focus on improvement with some reservations. Neil Leitch, of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: "While we welcome the aspiration of high-quality childcare, without a rethink on policy and adequate funding from government, we struggle to see how a real improvement will be made."

Purnima Tanuku, of the National Day Nurseries Association, urged the government "to make sure that there are sufficient support mechanisms in place to help weaker settings get better".

Start Quote

The very last thing [the sector] needs is more threats, disguised as yet another crusade to 'raise standards' ”

End Quote Prof Andy Goodwyn University of Reading

She warned that local authority cuts had reduced the amount of local improvement work and free training for staff.

Anand Shukla, of the Daycare Trust, added: "We are particularly concerned by the suggestion that Ofsted will be the sole arbiter of quality in the early years. Ofsted is ultimately a regulator with a limited remit and is not resourced to enable it to influence providers in all parts of England.

"Local authorities tend to have local intelligence and are closest to providers."

Catherine Farrell, of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said: "These new grades can only be introduced if Ofsted's own inspection judgements are more robust and if government recognises that providers will still need support and advice on how to improve."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    So on one hand the goverment want to bring down childcare costs while improving the quality of the education given. I think that they will probably fail on one or more likely both targets considering what a load of incompetents they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    isnt childcare and nursery all about keeping our children safe and happy while parents work to support their families?

    If this is also meant as education, then why dont the government lower school starting age!?

    I know id rather my children were safe and enjoyed their time whilst im working, rather than being cared for by stressed out people forced to meet stupid targets

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I am really glad to see OFSTED applying the success it has had with schools into other areas.

    (sarcasm intended)

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Nurseries should be places where kids go to learn through playing and also learn to get on with other kids and adults.
    I'm waiting for Gove to come up with some exams for nurseries, how about a "4 plus" exam?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    A nursery worker looking after three well-behaved children will almost always help those children progress really well.

    The same nursery worker looking after two well-behaved children and a poorly behaved child will spend disproportionate amounts with the poorly behaved child and the other children's development will suffer.

    We blame the nurseries instead of the bad parenting. Same in schools.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Only 1% inadequate? I wonder if the same could be said for parents?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Wouldn't it be easier to simply start statutory education at 4 (or earlier) years old using "proper" teachers and a pre-school curriculum regulated by Ofstead ?. It would certainly reduce the cost of childminding for working parents, provide structured entry into education and might, just might, produce kids who can read & write by the time they leave school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Is this joined up government? Or just another crackpot quango trying to justifiy it's existence. It's about time our rulers woke up to the fact that it is the ever increasing costs of child care that is the main obstacle and we already have the highest childcare cost in Europe. Mothers choose nursieries because of their reputations not because of their ability to teach higher math or philosophy

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Enough with the qualifications. I don't want either my nurse or my child to be looked after by a graduate. I would like them to be kind, caring and compassionate first and foremost. There is plenty of time for 'education' when school starts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    This really concerns me as a parent who has lived in high achieving Scandinavian countries - it shows that this government simply doesn't understand how children learn. There is a petition for parents about the government's lack of regard for evidence in education - you can sign by clicking on

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Ofsted just covering it's own back again so if anything goes wrong they don't have to take the blame. When will someone in Govt (who always preach they will reduce red tape) realise that you can end up over-regulating to the point that people do not feel it is a job worth taking on? Can't help feeling Ofsted have far too big a remit and power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    A primary school head once told me that an Ofsted rating of 'satisfactory' was essentially a failure. Orwell's doublespeak is alive and well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    We decided not to place our severely disabled daughter in a mainstream nursery, after the, rapidly growing, nursery group expressed insecurity about one-to-one provision and general care.

    I would recommend starting again, rather the reviewing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I'm not a parent but I am an Aunt & Godmother.

    I want my Niece, Nephew & Godson to have the best possible start to their education.

    As the years go on things will get tougher & the best tool they can have will be a decent educatiion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The real worrying part of this item is that it draws into question the credibility of Ofsted. For Ofsted to change classification it does create the question, 'Why weren't these establishments classed as 'requiring improvement' in the first place?'

    If this is the case, the credibility of any Ofsted report is drawn into question. Are we seeing Ofsted being subject to political influence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I can see childcare and nursery fees rising as their costs rise to implement these changes. I believe this to be outside the remit of ofsted and give them a "needs improvement" rating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    More Quangos, More check-lists, More middle Management, more rules. It certainly helped the NHS, Social Services and any other public service we have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I am just suprised that the regulations are not tougher anyway, poeple have to jump through hoops to get jobs in positions of trust but far slacker regulations are in place for these positions looking after some of the most vunerable in our society.

    While they are about it what about more inspections on doctors on nurses from overseas?, just because you can pass exams does not make you cabable..

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    How about parents facing tougher inspections ?

    After all, you don't need any qualifications to look after your own children but you almost need a degree to look after someone else's.


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