Ofsted scraps plan to remove childminders from statistics

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Ofsted has ditched plans to omit data on childminder numbers and places from official figures.

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Ofsted will continue to publish statistics on the number of registered childminders and the places they offer

The move is in response to the findings of a consultation with the sector, held last September, which found that 82 per cent of respondents were against the proposal.

Ofsted had argued that the introduction of childminder agencies - which involve childminders registering with an agency and not with Ofsted - would mean that reporting on childminder trends would be ‘unreliable’.

The inspectorate currently publishes two sets of statistics on the sector: ‘Registered childcare providers and places in England’ and ‘Early years and childcare registered providers inspections and outcomes’, which appear separately and different times of the year.

It had also proposed changing the frequency of the statistics, combining them and making them more focused and user-friendly.

The majority of respondents (79 per cent) agreed with changing the number of times a year the statistics were published to three times a year.

Nearly half  of respondents were in favour of combining the two reports. Two-thirds agreed with expanding the current provider level files that report on inspections by adding registration data to it.

Ofsted had also proposed removing some of the tables and charts, but following mixed feedback has decided not to go ahead with this.

In light of the findings Ofsted said it would merge the data on ‘providers and places’ and ‘provider inspections and outcomes’ from June 2015.

A final standalone release using the current format will be published in March, reporting on inspections that took palce between 1 September 2014 to 31 December 2014.

The first new combined release will cover inspections that have taken place from 1 January to 31 March 2015 and will also report on the number of providers on the registers as at the end of March.

Sector organisations said they were pleased that Ofsted had listened to their views.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years, said, ‘PACEY and its members are delighted Ofsted has taken on board our recommendations and decided to retain these important statistics, including those about childminder trends. It recognises the vital contribution registered childminders make to the country’s childcare system.

‘We will be working closely with Ofsted to support them to further improve upon these statistics, in order to truly reflect the state of registered childcare in England and Wales; taking into account, for example, the rising number of assistants in childminder settings.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘Childminders are a vital source of flexible, quality childcare and currently provide a significant proportion of all early years places. To remove them from Ofsted’s official data charts on childcare places, therefore, would have essentially rendered these statistics meaningless as they would have no longer been providing a comprehensive picture of the early years sector as a whole.’

He added that Ofsted’s rationale for removing childminder data had been ‘fundamentally flawed, as it assumed that the majority of childminders would soon be registered with agencies. With only four agencies registered over the past six months, and the majority of childminders still strongly opposed to the initiative, this is highly unlikely to be the case.

‘We welcome the fact that Ofsted has listened to the sector’s views on this matter and responded accordingly, and hope that it will continue to take this approach on all future consultations.’

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