Satisfactory nurseries to come under increased scrutiny in bid to raise standards

Ofsted has announced plans to change the inspection regime for early years provision which it says is aimed at boosting standards.

The plans will mean only a good or better standard of early years provision will be deemed good enough by Ofsted. Nurseries and preschools judged ‘satisfactory’ will come under increased scrutiny and could be judged ‘inadequate’ if they consistently do not improve.

Ofsted says inspection evidence shows nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are not improving fast enough and that, as of last August, up to 243,400 children were being cared for in early years providers that were not yet good. This represents almost 22% of the places available in the sector. Ofsted’s last Annual Report showed that 40% of early years providers had been judged satisfactory for two consecutive inspections – and 11% had gone down a grade.

Poor quality early years care and education is a particular problem in the poorest areas, says Ofsted, and providers are less likely to improve between inspections than those in more prosperous areas.

Under the proposed changes that will come into force from this September, only a good or better standard of early years provision will be deemed good enough by Ofsted.

Ofsted’s consultation proposes:

– a judgement of ‘requires improvement’ to replace the current ‘satisfactory’ judgement for all early years providers, to bring them in line with the standards already expected of schools and colleges.

– for nurseries and pre-schools ‘requiring improvement’, increasing the frequency of inspections and imposing a maximum of four years to get to ‘good’. If a nursery or pre-school fail to become ‘good’ after two consecutive inspections, it is likely they will be judged ‘inadequate’.

– where an inadequate early years setting fails to improve sufficiently and is still judged to be ‘inadequate’ after re-inspection, it is likely steps may be taken to cancel that setting’s registration.

Ofsted will also strengthen registration and ensure rigorous enforcement for those who are not improving fast enough, and those failing to comply with requirements set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said: ‘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.

‘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. From September 2013, nurseries and pre-schools judged less than good will need to improve rapidly. I want the new designation of ‘requires improvement’ to act as a catalyst to get all early years providers to good as soon as possible.

‘We’ll encourage providers that are good or outstanding to support weaker settings. We know that the best schools are joining forces and we anticipate that this will happen in the early years’

Sir Michael said that Ofsted will also be sharper about reporting on the levels of qualifications held by early years staff.

He said: ‘We know that staff expertise and qualifications make a distinct difference to the richness of young children’s experiences and that there is a clear correlation between the quality of provision and the level of staff qualifications.’

The consultation closes on 24 May 2013. The revised framework is set to take effect from September 2013.

Sue Robb, Head of Early Years at the charity 4Children, said: ‘Ofsted’s focus on the need for high quality education in the early years is welcome. We all increasingly recognise that a child’s early years are a vital period for their development, and are especially important in closing the gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their better off peers.


‘A significant minority of childcare providers are failing to provide adequate childcare and early education. To rectify this childcare providers in need of improvement will need support, not just more rigorous inspections. Ofsted needs to develop a clear offer of practical support, especially if they are to become the ‘sole arbiters of quality’, as proposed by the Government.’


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