The latest Ofsted statistics reveal that of the 6,089 early years providers inspected between 1 September and 31 December 2014, 77 per cent were found to be good and outstanding, an increase of three percentage points on the previous inspection period.
Among childminders, eight per cent were judged outstanding, up from five per cent between 1 July and 31 August 2014. The total rated good and outstanding was 79 per cent (up from 76 per cent).
The proportion of nurseries achieving good and outstanding grades has also risen.
Nine per cent of nurseries in the most recent inspection period were found to be outstanding (the same as the previous period), while 65 per cent were rated good, an increase of three percentage points, giving a total of 74 per cent (against 71 per cent).
The Ofsted statistics, ‘Early years and childcare inspections and outcomes September – December 2014’, consequently show a fall in the number of nurseries and childminders judged as requires improvement and inadequate.
During this inspection period, eight per cent of nurseries were inadequate, down from 10 per cent last time, while those rated as requires improvement fell from 19 to 18 per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of childminders judged as requires improvement fell by two percentage points to 15 per cent, while those rated inadequate remained at 6 per cent.
Inspection grades overall for providers at their most recent inspection as at 31 December 2014 also showed improvement, with nurseries at 86 per cent good and outstanding and childminders at 82 per cent.
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said,
'These latest statistics show how hard the sector is working to deliver high quality childcare and early learning. A total of 86 per cent of all nurseries rated good and outstanding is the highest proportion ever of nurseries achieving good or better ratings. This achievement is despite the issues the sector faces and whilst it is doing ever more to deliver for children, including the new two-year-old offer. So that the sector can continue to go from strength to strength, invest in staff and further develop quality it’s vital that funding issues and the challenges of maintaining a qualified workforce are addressed.'
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, 'The Alliance welcomes these latest figures which show that the sector continues to improve the quality of its provision. This is despite additional pressures placed on providers after the introduction of the stricter inspection regime in 2013, cuts to training budgets and reductions in the level of support available from local authorities and other areas. Huge credit should be given to providers who continue to work hard and show their commitment to improving the quality of their provision themselves.
'However we continue to question how sustainable this steady improvement can be in the long-term. The sector simply cannot continue to deliver high quality services while under pressure to work with even less funding and practical local authority support - particularly relevant now with additional demands required to support the delivery of the new Common Inspection Framework in September 2015.
'This is why the Alliance continues to push for urgent improvements to the way providers are currently funded and supported.'
Liz Bayram,chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, (PACEY), said, 'Despite an ongoing decrease in Government support, and poor levels of funding for free early education places, we have seen a further increase in the quality of childcare provision across the sector. Childminders and nurseries should be commended for investing in their own continuing professional development, and improving their provision in such challenging circumstances.'