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 42.

    In my view, based on seeing many Ofsted inspections, it is Ofsted itself that needs looking into! Some of the inspectors I have met are woefully behind the times in their knowledge of teaching practice, and they seem to think it is their job to destroy schools, rather than work to help them!
    We also have an Education Secretary who is decidedly ignorant of education and what is needed, not a clue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I am sure if we keep shaking things up we can keep up the illusion that we are trying to improve things and make a difference

    When all we are doing is causing confusion and chaos

    Thanks Ofsted keep up the good work with illusions like this you will soon be in the magic circle

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    So we have a bunch on minimum wage getting paper qualifications worth diddly being charged out at an arm and a leg to people who have to work because the rich want to take all the money and pay the working class squat.
    Actually the REAL answer is to have a scenario where a single wage earning man can support a sensible family - just as my dad was able to. I can't - and I earn 2xaverage wage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    My work place never had a paper shuffler as good as me. After we had a child I wondered how they would cope if I wasn't there. I soon realized that I wasn't the genius holding it all together and that one of the 2.5 million could take over. I can now work 3 days a week and palm off the little one to learn of War Poets from WW1 at nursery for 2 days. At first I was amazed I coped & I have a degree!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    If this improves schooling for young children in real terms then I'm all for it When I was in school several years ago now I used to routinely see schools put on their "game face" whenever Ofsted came around, going to further lengths with pupils to impress Ofsted and then drop it the next week when they're gone. I don't see how a change in the ratings system fixes the fundamental issues here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Oh for God's sake, keep Ofsted out of it. This is a prima facie case of scope creep - or in Ofsted's case, empire-creep.

    Get them out. They're redundant. Their perpetual tinkering with curricula has done more to harm this country's education than good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Childcare costs are related to the cost of the staff and staff ratios. A simple idea known by all but those in the 'Industry' of Child care.
    If you want good quality preschool education, in 99% of cases use the parents, and grandparents, not some part time wage earner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

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

    It's probably linked to Gove's latest flight of fancy that school days should be longer, with fewer holidays

    (That'll please the tourist industy as they bump up prices even more as capacity will be limited - But I guess parents will just take kids out of school for cheaper holidays)

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Inspections? That will reassure us?

    PAH! Stafford hospital was inspected and found to be excellent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    The whole concept of you can inspect quality into a system is completely without foundation. Show me any inspection regime, any target; and I'll show you people cheating;and the system being distorted to meet the new demands.
    No wonder the UK is seen as the worst managed country in Europe, sticking to this outdated nonsense.
    This is anti-good management!

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    More bulling to justify there own existence.
    If all the money that was being spent on OFSTED was put into the education budget for schools and nurseries we would have a much better standard of learning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Hopefully they will pass the cost on to the parents, then we might see some personal responsibility for a change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    By the sound of it any celebrity working for the BBC who comes into contact with children should face tougher inspections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    The only measurable outcome of this will be that the costs of childcare will increase in order to allow nurseries to be able to maintain profit margins whilst paying for the cost of implementing the changes in order to satisfy what is essentially a tick in a box.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Why don't you parents take some resposibility and look after your own children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    OFSTED forget that a Childminder is one person. The volume of paperwork that has to be done now is huge, if they make the mountain even larger many Childminders will just pack it in as it is not worth it, all they want to do is look after the children in a SAFE and CARING environment and that's all the parents want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Kids should be at home with one of their parents anyway. Successive British governments have sentenced us to a life of work and drudgery. You have to be a high earner for one of you to stay at home now, even though that was the situation for centuries, maybe thousands of years. This is a fairly new development, people forget this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Officious nonsense. Practically no home would 'pass', yet people are 'permitted' to keep their children! Let alone better child care by grandparents, relatives. This is a created industry in order to tax it as though a job made out of what was and is really a pin money favour. If you farm out your child you may as well not have it if you prefer or need to be working. Childcare & working, tax con.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    More governemnt interference, the price of childcare is all but prohibitive due to the rules and regulations laid down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    #15 speedthrills "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 ?."
    You don't know much about child development then?
    Or were you being sarcastic?


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