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 62.

    Our child minder was already sick and tired of the bureaucratic nightmare before, so I no doubt she'll end up quitting after knowing this. I am quite sure few child minders up and down the land will end up quitting as a result of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    40 - anotherfakename. " can support..." I agree with every word! My theory is that it was originally self inflicted in the 60's when Mothers began to work part time for "pin money". No problem with that, 'cos it improved quality of life. However, Corporates & HMRC saw it as a "money spinner", waited until women & families became entrenched & reliant on the extra income & then exploited them

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    @54. Mrs Vee

    Who inspects the inspectors? Ofsted has plenty of faults and has a lot to answer for IMO.

    But who will inspect the inspectors who inspect the inspectors?

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Any large organisation setup along OFSTED lines will always seek to change things - not to actually improve things - but to justify their existance. Love to see the research that shows a Graduate can cope with higher ratios - rubbish - its the training in child development and experience - not the English Degree that does that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    My fiancée is a qualified nursery nurse, who has been in the industry for ten years.

    The problem is always the same; care of the children comes second to paperwork. Management are more concerned about putting on a good show for Ofsted, but this doesn't reflect the real quality of day-to-day care they provide.

    Those ranked as satisfactory are, in fact, inadequate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    "Education" (although why nurseries are considered education is beyond me) seems to be a prime feeding ground for busybody parasites. These worthless creatures can create vast empires of pen pushers and form designers, who achieve nothing but stopping real educators doing their job.
    How long before two year old kids are asked for "feedback" on the quality of their nursery care?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Cheaper way isto link nurseries to Social Services. They are already in place and have all the qualified staff on hand. Yes, they would need to employ more, but at least it would mean that childminders wouldn't need to increase their fees to pay to be inspected every few months. But i do wish they'd leave things alone. Nurseries are not for education, but social skills in preparation for school

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Increase wage levels in the sector first. We have money to pay NHS/local/govt/BBC etc senior management obscene salaries.

    Raise wages for care workers, stop tax credit and make supermarkets etc, not the taxpayer, pay their staff's wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Who inspects the inspectors? Ofsted has plenty of faults and has a lot to answer for IMO.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Scrap OFSTED and use the money to actually improve education; and not bolster poor inspection regimes that add nothing of value!

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    There is a breed of person who likes to control and inspect others. They are the last people who should be in the job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    What every happened to childhood. Many countries don't start formal education until 7, and have a higher standard of education attainment by 18 as a result. When will this government understand that all you can do is provide a child with the opportunity to learn but you cannot make them learn. And the more form filling you have to do, the less time you have to provide a learning opportunity.

  • Comment number 50.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    The goverment only finds money for the things it wants to do, like giving an expensive non-state funeral for their idol. How many childminders would 10 million pay for? But they will pass the costs of this onto the parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I guess Ofstead doesn't have a dictionary, since "satisfactory" clearly doesn't mean "satisfactory" to them.

    And haven't we already seen in the schools that more and more testing doesn't improve quality? This smells like government trying to be seen to be doing something, rather than actually making a difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    How about doing all OFSTED inspections without pre - warning the schools??

    That along with making parents more accounatable for their little darlings may help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    In Scotland we have the Care Inspectorate which regulates all care services from childminders to care for older people and lots of other things too. They use National Care Standards which were developed by people who use these services, the Scottish Government and care providers. Why doesn't England do something similar? It seems to work here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I have a daughter at nursery and these measures are way on top
    Remember If you believe in God Almighty there is no way you should be afraid of anything

    We need to lessen the inspection like a seat-belt when in rest position

    Let us be careful folks, I have 6 children with another on the way and I have never felt more safe

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Next logical step - send OFSTED into every household with children under the age of 18 to inspect them. How many would even get a satisfactory outcome?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Going too far now. It is too strict as it is, no one can live anymore. It is just more red tape and inspections are useless after they have been done and deem that those investigated are safe. What if they commit the crime after that and everyone is told that they are trustworthy?? Parents are ultimately responsible for their children, not the state. Nanny state, getting really silly now


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