Just under three-quarters of all early years providers were graded good or outstanding - 74 per cent, up from 68 per cent on the previous quarter.
The latest figures are for inspections of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders that took place between 1 April 2014 and 30 June 2014.
The number of settings gaining a good grade has risen from 61 per cent to 67 per cent in the past quarter, while the proportion graded outstanding remains unchanged.
The figures also show a decrease in those settings with grades requiring improvement (18 per cent) or found to be inadequate (8 per cent).
Ofsted has also launched a consultation into how it publishes early years data.
Commenting on the statistics, the Pre-school Learning Alliance noted that the improvements in outcomes coincided with Ofsted’s decision to remove non-priority (30-day) complaint-driven early years inspections.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘It’s telling that this improvement in outcomes occurred in the same quarter as the removal of the 30-day complaint-driven inspection option. It will be interesting to see if this positive trend continues now that Ofsted has implemented this change permanently. We have long argued that these inspections were resulting in a disproportionately high number of poor judgements, and welcomed Ofsted’s decision to remove them.’
He added, ‘These figures clearly demonstrate that, despite ongoing funding shortfalls and diminished local authority support, the vast majority of early years providers continue to deliver consistently high-quality learning opportunities to the children in their care.
‘At a time when both Government and Ofsted continue to extol the virtues of school-based early years provision, these statistics serve as a timely reminder of the value of the private, voluntary and independent sector, and the crucial role it plays in the delivery of quality, age-appropriate care and education.’
Victoria Flint, head of communications at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said the figures were 'a testament to the dedication and hard work of childcare professionals during a time when the sector faces significant challenges in the form of reduced funding and local authority support.'
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive, National Day Nurseries Association said, 'On initial reading the early years inspection statistics released today by Ofsted, show an improvement in the overall number of nurseries graded good or outstanding.
'If however, you look at the most recent inspections carried out during the two month period between April 1 and June 30 this year, the number of good or outstanding settings drops to 74%. This figure is lower than the average figure of 83% graded good or outstanding for the sector as a whole.
'It is a drop which raises questions and Ofsted needs to distinguish if it is a routine inspection or a complaints driven inspection. The lower gradings usually seen as a result of both could be giving a figure which does not truly reflect sector standards.
'Ofsted is currently consulting on the way it publishes its inspection statistics, proposing a change from quarterly publication to three times a year. It is important the information we get from these reports is meaningful for providers to improve quality. Otherwise there could be a loss of confidence in the system, especially at a time when we have seen a lot of change in the way inspections are carried out.'
An Ofsted spokesperson said, ‘It is now almost a year since we raised standards for nurseries and other early years providers. So it is heartening that these statistics show that almost three-quarters of our inspections found a good or outstanding service for young children.
‘Parents can be assured that young children at those provisions are in an environment where they can learn and develop.
‘However, there are still too many early years provisions which do not help young children be ready to learn when they start school. In coming months Ofsted will be working with the 18 per cent of providers which need to improve.’
Consultation on early years statistics
The new data coincides with the launch of a consultation by the inspectorate on how it presents official figures on the number of early years providers registered with Ofsted and their inspection outcomes, which are currently published separately and at different times of the year.
Ofsted is asking for views from early years providers on changing the frequency of the two reports and is also considering merging the two reports on early years statistics and renaming the publication.
Following the introduction of childminding agencies, Ofsted is proposing removing data from some of the charts in the report on the providers and places statistics.
It says that because childminders that register with an agency will not also be registered with Ofsted, this would make reporting on childminder trends, before and after September 2014 ‘unreliable’.
Instead Ofsted says it would present childcare numbers ‘over time only’.
Ofsted also intends to remove a number of charts and tables from the data on providers inspections and outcomes.
Ofsted says, ‘If the responses to this consultation supports the proposal of combining the two releases together, there is an opportunity to bring registration and inspection data together and report on them at the same point in time.’
‘We would improve the provider level files currently published to include registration data. This modified file would still contain all the inspection information we currently publish.’
- The consultation closes on 28 November and Ofsted will publish a response to it in early 2015.