Ofsted clampdown sees early years grades fall

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The latest statistics for early years inspections show that Ofsted is being tougher on childminders and nurseries with more being judged inadequate and fewer given an outstanding grade.

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There has been a drop in the number of good and outstanding early years settings

The figures, which cover inspections carried out by the inspectorate between 1 September 2012 and 31 October 2013, show that of the 17,434 settings inspected during this period, 8 per cent were judged inadequate. Some 9 per cent of nurseries were judged inadequate while 7 per cent of childminders were judged inadequate.

This is a four-fold increase on the 2 per cent of the total number of 66,525 early years providers judged inadequate at their most recent inspection up to 31 October 2013.

The latest figures, which cover a 14-month period for the new early years inspection framework before the latest revisions. On 4 November 2013, Ofsted replaced the ‘satisfactory’ judgement with ‘requires improvement’.

The proportion of nurseries and childminders awarded a grade of outstanding or good between 1 September 2012 and 31 October 2013 has also declined.

During this period, 7 per cent of providers were judged outstanding. This compares to 12 per cent of all nurseries and childminders at their most recent inspection.

The latest Ofsted statistics also show that 60 per cent of providers were judged to be good in the most recent inspection cycle, compared to a total of 66 per cent in their most recent inspection.

A breakdown of the figures shows that childminders fared worse than nurseries, with 5 per cent of childminders judged outstanding (compared to ten per cent overall), against 10 per cent of nurseries (compared to 15 per cent overall) between September 2012 and October 2013. More childminders than nurseries also received a satisfactory grade.

Ofsted attributed the fall in grades to the new framework, which it says has ‘raised the bar’, along with focusing inspections on provision that ‘causes concern’. It says this includes prioritising the re-inspections of providers previously graded satisfactory at the start of the four-year inspection cycle, and bringing forward inspections of providers where information has suggested they may not be meeting requirements and are posing a risk to children.

An Ofsted spokesperson said, ‘We have toughened up the way we do early years inspections.

‘Ofsted has made it clear that only good or outstanding is good enough for young children. Those nurseries and pre-schools judged to require improvement will be inspected again within one year.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, ‘As these statistics only provide a small update on the data released in December, the figures come as no surprise. However, we remain concerned that Ofsted’s "tougher" inspection framework has resulted in such a significant increase in "inadequate" judgements, and a decrease in "good" and "outstanding" grades, compared to previous years.

‘It is not enough to introduce a more rigorous framework without ensuring that providers have access to the necessary support, training and guidance needed to meet these standards. We look forward to the publication of statistics relating to inspections that have taken place since the introduction of the new early years inspection framework, which will provide a more comprehensive picture of the current state of the sector.’

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children said, ‘Ofsted should work with the sector, using their new regional network, to develop and support quality among all early years providers so that they can achieve good and outstanding standards. This will be especially important given the extended roll out of free places for two-year-olds.’