The GMB report- ‘Are nurseries safe’, broadcast this morning, suggests Ofsted’s ratings are 'meaningless' and that nurseries are compromising the safety and well-being of children.
The report is based upon an undercover investigation into one nursery, which found serious safeguarding and health and safety failings, along with interviews with whistle-blowers, parents and ‘experts’. The nursery, which was rated good by Ofsted, has since closed.
Nursery owners and early years organisations have called the report ‘sensationalist’ and say it fails to paint a true picture of the standard of early years provision across the whole sector.
The report also suggests a ‘catalogue of injuries’ at nurseries across the UK including burns, head injuries and broken bones, and quotes figures that five nursery and pre-school workers are reported to authorities per day for being a potential danger to children – data that it says is not monitored by Ofsted.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, ‘Headlines like "Are nurseries safe?" paint a grossly unfair and negative picture of the early years sector that in no way reflects the quality of care provided day in and day out by thousands of providers.
‘The safety and wellbeing of young children should be the utmost priority for any and every childcare provider, and it's absolutely right that any concerns about safeguarding practices are thoroughly investigated. That said, there is a big difference between raising specific concerns about the practices of a single provider and suggesting that there are low standards of care across the whole sector, and we are both frustrated and disappointed that today's Good Morning Britain report fell into the latter category.’
He added, ‘The vast majority of early years providers deliver excellent care and education on minimal funding and little support. These dedicated, experienced and passionate professionals should be celebrated, not tarred with the same brush as a very small minority who fall short of the sector's high standards.
‘If Good Morning Britain would like to see a true picture of early years provision, we would more than happy to arrange a visit to one of the many settings across the country who deliver nothing but the highest level of quality care and education on a daily basis.’
Jennie Johnson, chief executive of Kids Allowed, who featured on GMB this morning, said, ‘The figure quoted by GMB that five nursery and pre-school staff are reported to authorities per day for being a potential danger to children- this is because providers have to flag up every concern to Ofsted. I would have thought what was more interesting is how many concerns are upheld. For example, we had an ex-boyfriend make up something about a team member, but we still had to report it. It was found to be malicious and not upheld. However this would be classed as one of the five per week.
‘The claim that Ofsted isn’t doing its job properly is unfair as inspections are always very thorough. For example, the nursery in question would have been found out at an inspection because you are required to show your staff team list and their CRB status and qualification. However Ofsted can’t be there all the time. Ofsted can only perform part of the solution. Practitioners and parents in the setting everyday also havea big part to play.'
Commenting on GMB’s Facebook page, Tricia Wellings, chief executive of the Bright Kids nursery group, said, ‘What an unbalanced report this is. There are many nurseries that do an amazing job day in day out - even whilst being underfunded by the Government. Why do you not balance this with the good work that is going on? Far more harm comes to children in their homes than in nurseries - accidents, bone breaks and most sadly deaths.'
In an interview with GMB, Ofsted's deputy director of early education Gill Jones said, ‘We register over 86,000 nurseries in this country, and 86 per cent of these are good and outstanding [91 per cent in new figures out today].
'Sadly from the footage that nursery was not good; that is why as soon as we were notified by the nursery owner that you had been in and done an undercover investigation, we immediately went on to look at the setting. Clearly we were worried and what we found out about the setting led the owner to resign her registration.
‘When we make a judgement about a setting, we make it at the time that we go in. We go into a setting routinely every four years. If we are notified about an incident, we go in more often that that. So it is really important that parents are vigilant as well as Ofsted. Ofsted is part of a system, but the system relies on managers notifying us if things go wrong.'
An Ofsted spokesperson said, 'Parents can be assured that the quality of nurseries has risen in recent years. In fact, 86 per cent [91 per cent] of early years settings were judged good or outstanding at their last Ofsted inspection. Serious incidents in them are few and far between.
'By law, nurseries have to tell Ofsted when a serious incident occurs. Ofsted considers these incidents carefully and may, as a result, inspect the nursery. We may also suspend a nursery’s registration or close it.
'Ofsted’s role in considering notifications of serious incidents is to determine whether or not the provider remains suitable for registration. So we have information about such incidents against individual provider records, but not at an aggregated level. It is not Ofsted’s role to publish aggregated data on the number of child deaths in settings; any such responsibility would rest with the child protection agencies.'