Ofsted’s latest statistics for early years inspections show that the number of early years providers achieving good and outstanding grades from inspectors at their most recent inspection has increasedby three percentage points since the last statistics were published.
The latest figures show that of the 6,140 full inspections of providers carried out between 1 November 2013 and 31 March 2014, 70 per cent were judged good or outstanding.
The latest Ofsted figures focus on the five-month period following the inspecting body’s move last November to replace the ‘satisfactory’ judgement with ‘requires improvement’. Twenty-one per cent of the inspections carried out between November 2013 and March 2014 received a judgement of requires improvement.
Nick Hudson, Ofsted early years director, maintained the figures were a good sign for the sector. He said, ‘Since we introduced a tougher framework last November we have found that 70 per cent of early years registered providers which we have inspected are good or better. I want to praise the hard work, professionalism and dedication of those early years staff who are providing a safe environment in which children can develop. They are helping to make sure that thousands of young children will be ready to learn when they begin their school journey.
‘Early years providers who have been judged to be outstanding or good since we raised the bar should see it as a quality mark. For those who have not yet been inspected under its terms, they should see inspection as an opportunity for them to demonstrate to us what they are doing to provide high quality early education.’
However, in the five-month period covered by the new statistics, 9 per cent of providers were judged inadequate. This compares to 2 per cent of the total number of 65,337 early years providers judged inadequate at their most recent inspection.
Childminders have once again fared worse than nurseries overall, with 76 per cent deemed good or outstanding compared to 82 per cent of childcare settings on non-domestic premises. Thirty-four per cent of childminders received an inadequate or requires improvement rating in comparison to 32 per cent of nurseries, and 9 per cent were rated inadequate in inspections carried out between November and March compared with 2 per cent of the 41,937 childminders overall.
However, childminders have also seen a rise in grades of good. Sixty-eight per cent of those inspected between November and March were rated good compared to 66 per cent in their most recent inspection.
Pre-School Learning Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch voiced concern about what he called a ‘steep decline in early years inspection outcomes over recent years.’
He said, ‘Statistics show that providers are more likely to be downgraded to “inadequate” following a complaint-driven inspection – as such, given that Ofsted is now considering removing non-priority complaint-driven inspections, we would be very interested to see what impact this change will have on the number of “inadequate” ratings if it is brought in permanently.’
He added that recent steps taken by Ofsted to address sector concerns about the inspection process should not be limited to the issue of complaint-driven inspections.
‘Serious questions continue to be raised over whether inspectors have the knowledge and understanding of early years provision needed to carry out fair and proper inspections. The fact that two-third of complaints against Ofsted come from early years providers clearly shows that there is still much more work to do in this area. As such, we continue to call for Ofsted to look to bring early years inspections back in-house as a matter of priority.
‘It is also vital that providers who feel that they have received an unfair inspection have the right to a fair appeal and so we urge Ofsted to reform this process by ensuring that there is independent provider representation on the appeals panel.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief Executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said, 'The Ofsted figures released today reinforce early years as a consistently high performing sector.
'Early years is a stand out sector with 82 per cent of nurseries graded good or outstanding and it is important those who sometimes criticise the sector recognise this.
'Figures for the recent inspections show the focus on weaker providers and complaint-driven inspections has had a clear influence over the past six months.
'Speaking at NDNA’s conference last week Nick Hudson said the new approach to complaint driven inspections, based on risk assessment, had been extended from its May pilot and may become regular practice.
'We would welcome this more proportionate approach. which has already shown a dramatic reduction in the numbers of complaint driven inspections and would urge Ofsted to implement it permanently. This more measured approach would benefit the sector as a whole as we all work toward increasing quality and providing the best possible care for children.'