Latest Ofsted figures for early years inspections show that 80 per cent of providers were judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection, but that in the latest reporting period, 1 July-31 August 2014, this stood at 74 per cent.
The good and outstanding figure for 1 April-30 June was also 74 per cent, up from the previous periods at 68 per cent and 66 per cent. However, if results for individual periods continue to run below the 80 per cent total, this will eventually lead to a fall overall.
The 'most recent inspection' figure may not have been affected because greater proportions of providers with lower grades are being inspected in any given period.
The percentage of early years providers being judged inadequate in the latest inspection periods is markedly higher than for the 'most recent inspection' figure - between 8 and 11 per cent, compared to 2 per cent overall.
Overall effectiveness judgements for early years providers at their most recent inspection as at 31 August 2014 (period between 1 July and 31 August 2014)
- 12 per cent outstanding (7 per cent)
- 68 per cent good (67 per cent)
- 18 per cent requires improvement/satisfactory (18 per cent)
- 2 per cent inadequate (8 per cent)
Childcare on non-domestic premises
- 15 per cent outstanding (9 per cent)
- 68 per cent good (62 per cent)
- 15 per cent satisfactory (19 per cent)
- 2 per cent inadequate (10 per cent)
- 10 per cent outstanding (5 per cent)
- 68 per cent good (71 per cent)
- 20 per cent satisfactory (17 per cent)
- 1 per cent inadequate (6 per cent)
An Ofsted spokesperson said, 'Nurseries and other early years providers are getting better. These statistics show that four-fifths have been judged to be good or outstanding at their most recent inspection.
'However, the gaps for the poorest children are still too wide.
'We are clear that good teaching is essential to help more young children, particularly those from poorer areas, be ready to learn when they begin primary school. We are working with those providers judged to require improvement to help them provide a better service for young children and their parents.
'We are currently consulting on the future of education inspection, which includes early years, and would urge nurseries and other providers to consider our consultation carefully.'
Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said, 'PACEY welcomes these fantastic results which clearly show the continuing trend of improvement in the sector. This has been achieved against a backdrop of reduced funding and local authority support.
'With an increased focus from Government on calling for school-based early years settings, we urge policy makers to boost the support offered to all settings so that they can improve still further, and in particular provide a better service to those children from poorer areas.'
Pre-school Learning Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch said, 'At a time when there is so much focus on moving towards a school-led early years sector, these figures serve as a timely reminder of the highly quality service that PVI providers continue to offer local families. It is important, however, that these providers are adequately supported to continue to do so, if this positive trend is to persist. This is particularly true of childminders, many of whom are seeing a sharp reduction in available support following the introduction of childminder agencies.