Ofsted comments outrage NCMA

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A row has broken out between Ofsted and the National Childminding Association, after Ofsted used its first annual early years lecture to suggest that childminders were 'not up to the job' of delivering all aspects of the EYFS.

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The National Childminding Association (NCMA) has written to Ofsted hitting back at suggestions that childminders should primarily deliver 'care' not education in the EYFS.

Sue Gregory, national director of education at Ofsted, echoed comments made in Ofsted's annual report, which proposed childminders should only be required to deliver some aspects of the EYFS and not all of the learning and development requirements.

In her speech to an audience at the Foundling Museum in London, Ms Gregory said, 'There's a question about whether all those who work with the very youngest children, especially childminders, should be required to deliver more than the prime areas.'

The way childminders will be inspected will change 'in the longer term', Ms Gregory added, signalling a move away from individual inspection to a network model.

Speaking after the event, Liz Bayram, chief executive of the NCMA, told Nursery World, 'What struck us was the big focus on childminding and not the wider sector. It's not as if the vast majority of childminders are "satisfactory".'

She highlighted Ofsted's own analysis of inspection reports, which shows 61 per cent of childminders are graded good and ten per cent outstanding, just three percentage points lower than childcare provided by nurseries and pre-schools.

Ofsted's report was wrong in suggesting that 'quality-drivers have plateaued' and that the positive effects of the EYFS have worn off. 'Childminders have continuously improved under the EYFS,' she said.

The letter from NCMA to Ofsted said, 'We question why Ofsted is suggesting this now, just as the Childcare Commission is due to make its recommendations. Linked to the idea of registering and inspecting childminders via an agency model, this leaves NCMA concerned the focus is more on cutting Ofsted's costs than quality improvement.'

Earlier this year, Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told MPs that regulating and inspecting childminders was too costly. An analysis by Nursery World found that inspecting a childminder costs six times as much as inspecting a nursery. Ms Bayram said, 'We do believe there's more to this than quality improvement.'

She added, 'We've already said to Ofsted we would like to talk to them about how to reduce costs.

'The theory behind the agency model has not been thought through, and it could result in higher fees for childminders to be part of that system. How much would it cost? Would they be able to offer the free entitlement?'

Ms Bayram also said that at a time when ministers were calling for more places for two-year-olds, childminders were 'part of the solution'.

'Let's look at what we can do to support the current system. The shift in emphasis is a great concern for us and our members.'

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