Ofsted unveils tougher inspection regime for early years

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Ofsted is toughening up its early years inspection system with a new framework operational from 4 November.


A judgement of 'requires improvement' will relace the current 'satisfactory' judgement, bringing early years providers in line with schools and colleges.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, HM Chief Inspector of Ofsted, said that 'good' would be the minimum standard expected. From November, pre-schools and nurseries requiring improvement will have two years to get to 'good' or could be judged 'inadequate'.

The revisions to the inspection framework follow a consultation called 'Good early years provision for all', which found broad agreement with Ofsted's proposals.

Other changes include:

  • 'Inadequate' settings will be reinspected after six months - if still found 'inadequate', registration may be cancelled.
  • Pre-schools and nurseries found to 'require improvement' will be reinspected within a year, and are likely to be judged 'inadequate' if they have failed to improve after two years.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said, 'The early years are crucial. That’s why only a good standard of education and care is acceptable for our youngest children.
'Pre-schools and nurseries need to give children a solid foundation. Two years is a long time in a child’s life and it’s long enough for a setting to improve. I agree with the parents who told us in our consultation that four years is too long to wait for a nursery to reach the good standard that every child deserves.
'As a nation, we spend around £5 billion a year on funded early education, but too many pre-schools and nurseries across the country are not yet good, particularly in the most deprived areas. That’s why Ofsted is determined to introduce greater challenge into the early years sector.
'Early years provision is only as good as the quality of interaction between adults and children. The best providers understand the importance of teaching children through their play while also giving them structures and routines which bring order and security into their lives. It is vital that very young children make good progress so that they succeed in later years. I am clear that we ignore early education and care at our peril.'

The consultation on the frequency of inspection did not include childminders, as the impact of the proposal for childminder agencies will be assessed first. Ofsted will then consult on the frequency of inspection for childcare in domestic settings, probably in the autumn.

  • Find more information and the report on the responses to the consultation here.
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