However, there has been an improvement in the quality of all early years provision since the EYFS was introduced in 2008, with 74 per cent of nurseries, pre-schools, children’s centres and childminders receiving good or outstanding grades, compared with 65 per cent three years ago.
The report, published as part of Ofsted’s annual report, said that pre-schools and nurseries do better than childminders at preparing children for school.
It said that while most childminders provide children with a good level of care, ‘many have found it more challenging to provide for the learning and development set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage.’
Ofsted found that childcare linked with a children’s centre tends to be of a higher quality and said that there was a strong case for creating ‘hubs’ of the best performing settings, children’s centres and schools to link up with weaker group care providers and childminders.
There continues to be ‘a sharp difference’ between provision in the most and least deprived areas of the country, particularly among childminders.
In the least deprived areas 77 per cent of childminders achieve good or outstanding grades, compared with 61 per cent in the most deprived areas.
However, Ofsted’s evidence also shows that children’s centres in the most deprived areas do better than children’s centres in other areas, because they have been set up for the longest time and have the strongest leadership.
‘Readiness for school’
While the quality of provision has improved, Ofsted said that too many children were starting school without basic skills and abilities to learn well.
The EYFS profile data shows that while there has been improvement in results across the three main assessment areas year on year, ‘significant weaknesses remain in terms of how well providers use the Early years Foundation Stage to prepare children for school. Government may wish to review the content and the structure of the learning and development requirements and of the Early Years Foundation Stage.’
The report said that it was a concern that 34 per cent of children are not working securely within the early learning goals for communication, language and literacy by the end of the EYFS.
Ofsted’s national director for early years, Susan Gregory, said that too many children start school without being well enough prepared.
‘Their language may not be well enough developed, they may not be able to communicate as well as they should, they may not have the social boundaries we expect them to have, they may not be able to play with other children, co-operate or share. Sometimes they are really not as interested as we would expect young children to be,' she said.
Ofsted will be looking into how early years inspectors could use their role to link up the best early years settings, children’s centres and schools with weaker providers.
Ms Gregory said, ‘We think inspectors should be out there finding out where good teaching is going on’, and suggesting to weaker settings that they visit these other nearby providers to see what they do.
The report highlights the link between well-qualified staff and the ‘richness of children’s experiences before they start school.
‘We can see that there is a clear correlation between the quality of provision and the level of staff qualifications in the setting. Our evidence suggests that providers with a good level of qualification, to at least level 3, tend to receive better grades at inspection.’
Ofsted’s report said that ‘serious consideration’ must be given to the findings of the Nutbrown review that recommended that those working with young children should have a minimum level 3 qualification.
It said, ‘The ten-year timescale for implementing this is unambitious. It is longer than the time most children spend in the whole of their early years and primary education.’
Call for satisfactory settings to be re-inspected
Commenting on the report, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said he was pleased that the percentage of pre-schools and day nurseries judged good or outstanding has risen from two-thirds to three-quarters in the past three years, with 12 per cent outstanding and 62 per cent good.
He said, ‘However, we know that the revised inspection framework introduced in September is making it harder for settings to be judged good or outstanding, so it is all the more important that settings judged satisfactory are re-inspected sooner than the current 47-month period. The Alliance and the Major Providers Group are currently lobbying Ofsted about this matter.’
Mr Leitch added that the report’s emphasis on school readiness was a concern, as this was often misinterpreted by parents as focusing solely on reading and writing skills.
‘We believe schools should be ready for children and not the other way round, ‘ he said.
‘A child’s early years should be about life readiness and not school readiness, and must not be focused simply on preparing children for subject-based learning. Such a formalising of early years is far removed from our ‘learning through play’ philosophy.
'We do not want children and the sector to experience top-down pressure from schools and the education system in a misguided attempt to ensure children are "school-ready".'
- The report on provision for education and skills in the early years sector, presents evidence from inspection and regulatory visits undertaken between September 2011 and August 2012 and is published as part of Ofsted’s annual report for 2011/12.