'More Great Childcare': Expansion for Ofsted as councils lose early years quality work

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Local authorities are set to lose their early years quality improvement role, as Ofsted becomes 'the sole arbiter of quality in the early years', in the Government's 'More Great Childcare' shake-up.

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Education and Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss's report proposes ending 'duplication' in inspection. 'At the moment some local authorities also inspect early years providers who are implementing the early education programme for three- and four-year-olds as well as two-year-olds.'

This, it says, would enable the £160m that the Government claims local authorities retain from the free entitlement funding to be passed on to the frontline, and avoid duplicating work done by Ofsted and issuing of 'different or even contradictory requirements'.

'We will make Ofsted inspection rating the sole test of whether a provider can offer funded early education for two-, three- and four-year-olds.' The Government is proposing changes to the statutory guidance covering the early education programme to emphasise this.

The report says that Ofsted will substantially increase the input of experienced and well-qualified HMIs into the early years from September 2013, to:

  • enhance the quality assurance of Ofsted inspections
  • identify the most successful practice
  • broker links between weaker providers and outstanding schools, children's centres and nurseries
  • challenge nursery chains and other PVI providers to identify where improvements are needed
  • develop and deliver robust arrangements for the regulation and inspection of new childminder agencies.

Other changes to the inspection regime announced in 'More Great Childcare' include abolishing floorspace rules, the need for staffrooms and other 'relatively trivial issues, such as ... whether the nursery has a room where staff can talk confidentially to parents', to allow inspectors to concentrate on how well adults are interacting with children. Such regulations will be replaced with 'a general welfare and safety requirement'.

Ofsted will be expected to have a stronger focus on weaker providers. There are hints that strong providers may have even longer periods than four years between inspections, as the report talks of 'the limits of an individual inspection cycle of four years', and says that new arrangements will place more emphasis on Ofsted's judgement about which providers would benefit most from inspection.

However, providers will be able to pay for reinspection if they believe they have improved.

Ofsted will inspect and report on the new childminder agencies' quality, and also inspect a sample of childminders under an agency.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw will set out more details of his plans for further improvement of early years inspection this spring.

 

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