Ofsted attacked over early years inspections

Children at school Early years providers are losing confidence in Ofsted, says the Pre-School Learning Alliance

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Ofsted has a "fundamental problem" with the quality of its inspections of early years education, says the Pre-School Learning Alliance.

Two-thirds of formal complaints against the watchdog in the year to March were from nurseries or childminders.

The Alliance says Ofsted needs to make improving the quality of early years inspections "a priority".

Chief executive Neil Leitch said early years providers had questions over "quality, fairness and consistency".

The figures for complaints are published in Ofsted's annual report and accounts for the year ending March 2014.

'Little confidence'

Out of a total of 1,809 complaints, 1,197 came from the early childhood sector - some 66% of the total - and up from 48% last year, says the Alliance.

Of a total of 327 complaints which resulted in an internal Ofsted review, 236 (72%) were from early years providers, up from 50% last year.

The Alliance, which represents 14,000 providers of early years education, says the figures are worrying.

"Early years inspections only account for around half of all Ofsted inspections.

"So the fact that 66% of formal complaints and 72% of internal review requests come from early years providers suggests that there is a fundamental problem with the early years inspection process," said Mr Leitch.

He said early years providers had little confidence in the inspection process and urged Ofsted to bring inspections of nurseries and childminders back in-house.

Last month, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, said that from 2015 Ofsted would stop contracting out inspections of schools and colleges and would use only directly employed inspectors but it has not extended the plan to early years education.

Wider changes

Earlier this year, Ofsted found the quality of care and education in a third of nurseries and childminders in England was not good enough.

Of more than 17,400 early years providers inspected, 60% were rated good and 7% outstanding but 25% required improvement and 8% were inadequate.

An Ofsted spokesman said it had decided not to bring early years inspections back in-house because it was still "working through wider changes" in the sector.

"Our early years inspectors all have a background in the sector and make judgements based on what they see and know about a nursery or other kind of early years setting. All inspectors work within a national framework which ensures consistent standards.

"If, however, an early years provider is unhappy about the judgement on the quality of the setting then they should raise the matter with us as soon as possible".

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