Sector criticises Ofsted move to potential 30-month wait for first inspection

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The early years sector has given a mixed reaction to changes to inspections set out by Ofsted early years director Nick Hudson and revealed on Nursery World online.

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Ofsted early years director Nick Hudson

While the news that Ofsted's own in-house inspectors will take on responsibility for re-inspecting 'requires improvement' and inadequate nurseries in place of outside contractors was welcomed by many, there were widespread concerns about extending the timescale for post-registration inspections for new settings.

Inspections will now take place within 30 months, rather than the current period of within seven months.

Mr Hudson said this would free up a lot more time - he estimated up to 10,000 days - to prioritise nurseries, childminders and other early years providers that are not yet good or outstanding.

'It will also give new providers longer to embed their practice so that at their first inspection they will have every chance to show that they are good or better,' he said.

'Of course, if we hear of a safeguarding concern then we will take appropriate action, and that may well include an early inspection. But new early years providers can no longer expect an Ofsted visit within seven months.

'In a similar way, we will no longer carry out a new registration visit for providers who re-register for technical reasons, such as changing their legal status, and where the setting has a good inspection history.'

However, there has been a widespread response that settings should be inspected quickly and that leaving new providers up to 30 months before their first inspection was too long.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'It's vital that new providers are inspected sooner rather than later to ensure that any issues within the provision are promptly addressed and good practice is embedded as early as possible. Under these plans, a child could spend their entire early years experience in a provision that hasn't been inspected by Ofsted. This is simply unacceptable.

'It's clear that Ofsted needs to find a way to tackle the current backlog in early years inspections, but this is not the answer.'

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said, 'A provider's first inspection must be carried out sooner rather than later in order for any problems to be addressed quickly. Waiting two and a half years is far too long.'

James Hempsall, director of Hempsall's and national support director of Achieving Two Year Olds, said, 'We think that as Ofsted has become the sole arbiter of quality, that more frequent and not less frequent inspection is more desirable, including random and unannounced inspections.

'We welcome new providers into the two-year-old sector. We do, however, want them to be of the highest quality, and at least equivalent to long standing settings that have been subject to recent inspections.

'Local authorities will soon come to rely on Ofsted to direct them to spend intervention resource in settings that require improvement or are inadequate. This, by definition, needs regular information exchange based on current inspection outcomes, more not less often.'

  • Read Nick Hudson's blog
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