Nurseries and childminders to face tougher inspections

Nursery children + teacher

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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 82.

    the problems is OFSTED's emphasis on written policies and proof rather than observation of good or catching out of bad practice. When I was a childminder (16 years with a lot of training) many of my fellow minders believed that it woud be better to have frequent short unplanned visits rather than long organised ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    The trouble with improving nursery education is that the children could well show up their parents by being cleverer than they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    The absolute "best thing" for children is to bring about an economy where only one parent needs to work & then allow little children to go out to play, build dens, climb trees & pinch apples, play hide & seek, have adventures, learn social skills with their playmates, explore, learn individual gifts & limitations, earn pocket money & most of all, enjoy the innocence & fun to be found in childhood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    My son is due to start reception in September however we are home educating him. This week we have made pictures on the beach, planted vegetables in the garden, gone to the playground with friends, gone to rhyme time at the library, baked biscuits, did a floating/sinking experiment in the bath, learnt number bonds to 10, learnt to count to 10 in spanish. And more! no forms to fill in at all...

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    ludicrous requirements for childminders. Parents want a safe,homely and loving place for their children. Education as bureucratically required comes way down the list. This approach has excluded very many caring people from childcare who are not academically qualified and inevitably means childcare costs will rise. How many people with degrees would work for £4/hr per child before costs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Nurseries. Aren't they pre-school facilities which should be wholely paid for by those parents who wish to dump their kids off onto strangers whilst they pursue their quest for greedy acquisition instead of actually looking after their kids? No doubt expecting the taxpayer to pay for nursery care though but.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    There are thousands of young very qualified people who are jobless. Attainment is not everything OFSTED.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.


    Yes, let's get touch on everything !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    An important change I think should be made is to avoid teachers etc having warning before an Ofsted inspection. This allows for them to prepare to nth degree and gives an unrealistic assessment on how good day to day teaching actually is. You could then see what actual improvement it required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    65. Suki
    .......The better the quality and quantity of the interaction between the child and its carer/s the better for its development. This kind of care is essential but not cheap.
    In my day we substituted Carer/s for Parents. And that "service" was free, loving & invaluable. I could never turn my back on my responsibility as a parent by farming them out to unqualified "minders".

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I have several family members who are teachers. At the last OFSTED of one of them, the inspection was carried out by an ex-teacher she had worked with; and knew him to be a hopeless teacher!
    Unfortunately, most teachers are being bullied into going along with this nonsense. Ed Balls still has a lot to answer for!

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    This Government seems hell bent on destroying Education. Not only has it introduced ill thought through legislation that will mean that in time schools will start to fall over both on attainment and financial grounds but it now seeks to introduce a process that will deprive young people less able to sit exams of the opportunity to put something worthwhile back into their community.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    @56 "Nurseries are not for education, but social skills in preparation for school".
    I agree 100%. Let children of this age be free. Pushy 'my child's a genius' & moronic ingrate parents really should go back to shuffling paper or smoking fags whatever they deem to be important in their lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Who inspects Ofsted?

    Their judgements are unhelpful, their approach unsupportive and there is no route to challenge their opinions - see last year's debacle with Newcastle College.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    My children went to a school that was rated by Ofsted as one of the best in U.K. I removed them for home schooling. Ofsted reports mean nothing re: childcare/child safety/education standards. All an 'outstanding' result means is the Head is adept at paperwork and massaging figures and facts.
    Children need a childhood ,not more pressure to succeed to inflate a schools Ofsted ranking!

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    It's a shame the government can't spend their time bringing in tough inspections for banks who's actions have ultimately had a far greater negative impact on the majority of children in this country.

    Suppose those at OFSTED need to be seen doing something, pity that doesn't apply across the board.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I know, instead of "Outstanding", "good", etc, let's bump everyone up to A*** A** A* and A, and call them GCSEs.... Thanks to my O and A level statistics I understand what a bell curve is.

    How the maggot-farmer government can one week increase the child/teacher ratio and the next complain about falling standards. These people are messing with our children's lives!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    From birth to five years are the most valuable of the formative years during which time a child is most receptive to any learning experiences available. The better the quality and quantity of the interaction between the child and its carer/s the better for its development. This kind of care is essential but not cheap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Wilshaw is trying to get blood out of stone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    #52 I agree - they are usually called politicians, the more extreme breed are called Labour party politicians


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