Statistics for early years inspections carried out between September 2012 and August 2013 show that seven per cent of providers were judged inadequate, compared to three per cent of providers in 2011-12.
The proportion of nurseries and childminders awarded good and outstanding grades in the past year has also declined.
Sixty-seven per cent of childminders and early years settings were graded outstanding or good between September 2012 and August 2013.
This is a drop of seven percentage points on statistics for the previous year, when the proportion of early years providers rated good or outstanding was 74 per cent.
The gap between the quality of provision between childcare in group settings and childminders has narrowed, however.
Previously, a higher percentage of nurseries were judged good or outstanding, but the gap is now just two percentage points, compared to seven percentage points last year.
Since 2012 childminders have faced a new, tougher registration process including compulsory training before registering with Ofsted, which could account for the improvement.
Seventy-eight per cent of these new childminders were judged good or outstanding at their first inspection.
Ofsted attributed the decline in good and outstanding grades among early years providers to a more rigorous inspection regime.
In the notes accompanying the release Ofsted said, ‘The lower grade profile seen in inspections this year may be partly because the new framework has raised the bar - half of providers previously rated outstanding declined by at least one grade at their re-inspection this year.
‘However, it is also due to focusing on the inspection of provision that causes concern, by prioritising the re-inspection of providers previously graded satisfactory, and by bringing forward inspections of providers where information has suggested they may not be meeting requirements and are posing a risk to children.’
Early years organisations blamed a lack of practical support for providers for the decline.
The Pre-School Learning Alliance said that introducing a tougher new inspection regime without extra support for providers was ‘a recipe for disaster’.
Chief executive Neil Leitch said, ‘At a time when the Government is planning to remove the duty of local authorities to provide vital support, training and advice to providers judged ‘good’ or better, Ofsted has admitted that half of providers previously rated ‘outstanding’ declined by at least one grade this year. We are extremely concerned that little, if anything, is being done to buck this downward trend. Providers need to be adequately supported if they are to improve quality, or maintaining existing high standards. Removing this vital support while still expecting providers to be able to meet new, tougher standards, makes absolutely no sense.’
The Alliance has also called on Ofsted to provide more detailed breakdowns of inspection data to allow for more accurate comparisons between time periods.
Mr Leitch said, ‘Given the number of significant changes that have been made to the inspection framework over the past few years, it is difficult to make direct comparisons between inspection outcomes of different periods of time. ‘This has been a particularly challenge over the past academic year as Ofsted has been prioritising the inspection of “weaker” provider, skewing the overall data. This means that providers, and crucially, parents, may not be able to get a clear picture as to the current state of the sector.’
Purnima Tanuku OBE, NDNA Chief Executive said, 'Ofsted reports the marked difference in inspection gradings since the introduction of the new framework.
'Looking at the most recent inspection grades for all nurseries in the country 82 per cent were judged to be good or outstanding which, on the face of it, shows a robust sector. However, look at the figures for the past year alone and the number of good and outstanding nurseries has fallen sharply to 68 per cent.
'Ofsted has said this is due to "raising the bar" but it is of little comfort to nursery owners already worried about their inspections. No-one in the sector disputes the need for quality and every nursery is striving to provide high quality childcare, but providers need to be confident in a robust inspection process.
'Ofsted’s grading is crucial to a nursery especially as they are the sole deciding factor on which providers can offer funded nursery places. This downward trend also has to raise questions over the increased amount of provision needed for vulnerable two-year-olds. Fewer good or outstanding nurseries will impact on this provision.
'I have had several meetings with Sue Gregory to discuss the inspection issues and will be meeting the new early years lead, Nick Hudson in the New Year.
'As well as presenting Sue with evidence from our members, we have asked Ofsted to take eight steps to ensure its inspection regime is trusted, robust and achieves its priorities of better outcomes and better inspection and regulation. Ofsted has also committed to being at as many of NDNA’s free member events as possible when they start in the spring.
'We cannot stress enough how important an accurate inspection process is and we all want to see the trend reversed, only that way will we be able to create the sector we all want to see.
NDNA’s eight steps for Ofsted
- Continue to talk with and hear from the sector
- Consistency and quality in inspection
- Communicate a clear and fair policy on concern driven inspections, with history of complaints only considered when relevant to current practice.
- Transparency in the quality assurance process and in reporting of Ofsted’s performance.
- Five working days for providers’ to review before publication of reports
- Fairness in handling complaints from providers: include an independent sector representative; give providers more time to raise complaints.
- Avoid routine inspection when managers are on annual leave.
- When the law allows, offer paid-for re-inspection.
Find the report here