Ofsted 'requires improvement' - says Ofsted early years chief

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Ofsted is 'not yet good' on the consistency of inspections, Gill Jones said today.

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Gill Jones, Ofsted deputy director, early education

Speaking at the National Day Nurseries Association conference, the Ofsted deputy director of early education said, 'I won't pretend we are in a perfect place. We still require improvement. We are not yet good. Inconsistency is still happening.'

Ofsted brought its early years inspections in house in April, ending contracts with third- party organsiations Tribal and Prospects.

The move has been welcomed by the sector and the Ofsted Big Conversation campaign group that had raised concerns about standards and the lack of consistency with outsourced early years inspections.

A childcare provider, who did not give her name, said, 'We have had a lot of concerns about staff being contracted out. What level are you at now? Should we as providers be concerned about who is walking through our door as an inspector?'

Ms Jones said, 'We are like any workforce - we have some staff who are on their way and some who are brilliant.'

But, she added, 'We have a much clearer oversight of staff. When we contracted out we relied on contractors to oversee staff and we held the contractors to account. Now (as well as employing staff directly) we are going out on inspections with staff and looking at work in more detail.'

She added that Ofsted grouped inspectors into eight regions with directors. She said, 'When we get to the point where all our staff are regional, then hand on heart we'll be able to say it's a really good workforce.' She said this would take about six months.

Ms Jones also said early years settings were randomly inspected any time within inspection 'cycles' ( of four years) as opposed to an inspection 'window', where inspections took place a minimum period from a specific date - as happens with schools.

This can leave some early years settings uninspected for potentially close to eight years if their first inspection happened at the beginning of the first cycle, and the subsequent one at the end of the second.

She said it would be hard for early years settings to be inspected according to the schools' model for a 'variety of reasons -particularly because there are so many childminders and the way we have to juggle inspectors' time.' But, she added, 'it is a direction we would like to go in.'

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