NCMA takes Ofsted to task over claims childminders 'not up to the job'

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

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The NCMA accuses Ofsted of being more interested in cutting costs than improving quality.

Sue Gregory, national director of education at Ofsted, chose the inspectorate’s first annual early years lecture last night to echo comments made in Ofsted’s annual report, published last week, which proposed that 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. Do we ask them to do too much?’

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

In an open letter to Ofsted, joint chief executives of the NCMA Liz Bayram and Catherine Farrell, say that they want ‘to publicly state their disappointment’ with Ofsted.

They argue that it would be ‘a retrograde step’ to remove childminders from some of the EYFS, as well as letting down children and families.

NCMA argues that Ofsted’s claim that childminders generally deliver less high quality provision than nurseries and pre-schools does not stack up against Ofsted’s own figures.

Ofsted’s early years report highlighted the fact that childminders have ‘performed consistently worse’ than nurseries and pre-schools since the EYFS was introduced.

But NCMA says that Ofsted’s own analysis shows that 61 per cent of childminders are graded good and ten per cent outstanding, just three percentage points lower than childcare provided by other early years settings.

It also warns against creating ‘an unlevel playing field that seems to classify childminders as just "caring".’

The letter says, ‘Like nurseries and pre-schools, childminders help children to be ready for life, including school. 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.

The full text of the letter is below.

The National Childminding Association's open letter to Ofsted

Dear Sirs,

NCMA wanted to publicly state how disappointed we were to hear both Sir Michael Wilshaw and Sue Gregory use their annual lecture to argue that registered childminders are not up to the job of delivering the EYFS and to raise the idea that they should be exempt from some of it. This is despite Ofsted's own analysis of inspection reports revealing that 61 per cent of childminders are graded good and 10 per cent outstanding, just 3 or 4 percentage points behind childcare on non-domestic premises.

We all agree that satisfactory is not good enough for children whatever setting they are in. But NCMA disagrees with Ofsted’s solutions. The vast majority of childminders, with support, are able to improve the care and learning they provide. So we should build on this solid foundation rather than create an unlevel playing field that seems to classify childminders as just "caring".

Like nurseries and pre-schools, childminders help children to be ready for life, including school. 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.

By being part of the EYFS has helped thousands of childminders to improve and be recognised for the professional role they have. It would be a retrograde step to remove them from some of it, letting down the thousands of children and families who choose childminding because of the personalised and flexible childcare it provides.



Catherine Farrell and Liz Bayram

Joint chief executives, NCMA

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