Ofsted probes behaviour link to later learning

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Ofsted is to collect additional evidence on behaviour as part of inspections to find out how the early years affect later attitudes to learning at school.


Gill Jones, Ofsted early education, deputy director

Ofsted is to collect additional evidence on behaviour as part of inspections to find out how the early years affect later attitudes to learning at school.

Under the plans – which are outlined in Ofsted’s annual report for 2015/16 – as of next year, inspectors will collect more evidence on listening skills, preparedness for learning and relationships in order to better understand how the early years contribute to a good foundation of behaviour and attitudes to learning.

This includes what successful schools and settings do to help stabilise the behaviour and attitudes of children who enter provision with problems.

The findings will be presented in next year’s annual report.

According to Ofsted, young children’s ability to communicate is closely linked with their behaviour. The report for 2015/16 states that children whose communication, language and listening skills are under-developed often have restricted ways of communicating their needs and wants, which can lead to them displaying behaviour perceived as negative or immature.

It goes on to say that where behaviour is reported as ‘requiring improvement’, this is often linked to a lack of stimulating activities or low levels of challenge in the activities available. Also, staff sometimes manage behaviour inconsistently or not to high enough standards and expectations, it says.

Ofsted’s latest report also reveals that the gap between the quality of early years provision in poorer and more affluent areas of the country has narrowed during Sir Michael Wilshaw’s time as chief inspector.

There is now almost the same proportion of Good and Outstanding nurseries and pre-schools in the most-deprived areas of the country as there is in the least-deprived.


Included within the report are good practice examples of providers using the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) to improve children’s outcomes.

The EYPP was introduced in April 2015 to provide funding for three- and four-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds. As of January 2016, around 107,000 children in early education were eligible for the funding.

One example the report gives is of a school using the EYPP to employ a ‘project worker’ whose role is to support disadvantaged pupils academically and break down any barriers to learning. As a result, children entitled to the EYPP at the school perform just as well as their peers.


The Ofsted annual report also highlights providers’ concerns surrounding the introduction of the 30 hours entitlement, including whether there will be sufficient high-quality places to meet demand, as well as the viability of delivering the offer.

According to Ofsted figures, the number of early years places in the sector has not increased in line with the growth in child population in recent years.

While there are now more children aged four and under in England than in 2009, the number of registered places has declined, even with the increase in places available at maintained schools (see box).

The inspectorate says Government, local authorities and providers must plan further to ensure that enough funded places are available.


Included within the report are figures on the qualifications of the early years workforce.

They show that 75 per cent of staff in nurseries and pre-schools have relevant qualifications at Level 3 or above. The proportion of private and voluntary providers employing at least one member of staff with Early Years Professional or Qualified Teacher Status has also increased, from 35 per cent in 2011 to 48 per cent in 2016.

However, more than a tenth of early years staff working in nurseries and pre-schools have no relevant early years qualifications at any level. Compared with many other developed countries, Ofsted says that England’s workforce has a low proportion of graduates outside the maintained sector.


The section in the report on early years initial teacher training (EYITT) acknowledges the difficulties providers face in recruiting and retaining trainees, and says this means programmes are not always viable.

Ofsted began inspecting EYITT providers in April. So far ten providers have been inspected; of these, eight were rated Good and two as ‘requires improvement’.


‘This year’s Annual Report is particularly notable because it is the last from our outgoing chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw. I’m very pleased to be able to say that Sir Michael has taken the opportunity to praise the sector for providing young children in the country with an early years education that is stronger than ever.

‘When we released our statistics a few weeks ago, we were able to celebrate that 91 per cent of nurseries and childminders in England are rated Good or Outstanding. This is a wonderful achievement of which we should all be very proud. For the sixth year in a row, the proportion of early years institutions rated Good or Outstanding has risen and is now the highest ever.

‘Launching his final report, Sir Michael pointed out that we’re seeing this high quality of early years provision across the country. It’s wonderful to be able to say that the quality of childminders and nurseries is more or less the same in the most- and the least-deprived parts of England. In this important area the early years sector is bucking the trend that we see for schools and colleges. In every English local authority, at least four out of five childcare places are in Good or Outstanding settings. Indeed, over the past five years, we’ve seen a five percentage point drop in the gap between the quality of early years provision in the least- and most-deprived areas.

‘I would encourage you to read the details in the report, which is available online. You’ll see that we place great emphasis on looking at how children from different groups do within every setting we inspect. We are particularly interested in looking at how well children from low income families do in their early years. It is incredibly important for us that these children do as well or better than their peers.

‘In total we rated 15 per cent of early years settings Outstanding during their last inspection. We found that Outstanding providers are constantly mindful that they are supporting their disadvantaged children. In a past thematic report, Teaching and play: a balancing act, we pointed out that disadvantaged children need to spend more time interacting with adults if they are to make the same development progress as their better-off peers. Outstanding settings recognise this and many allocate their pupil premium to fund extra support for disadvantaged children.

‘There has been a real uptake of funded early years places for two-year-olds from low-income backgrounds in the past year. We should all celebrate the fact that between January 2015 and January 2016, the percentage of eligible two-year-olds in funded childcare increased by 10 percentage points to 68 per cent.

‘However, this good news is tempered to some degree by the finding that 6,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds attend inadequate nurseries. This is a real disservice to the children whose development would really benefit from a strong early education.

‘While we quite rightly praise the early years sector in our Annual Report, as you would expect, we also flag up our concerns. In particular, we are concerned about the number of early years places available. Since 2009, the number of under-fives in England has grown by 240,000, but at the same time the number of early years places has fallen by 50,000.

‘A high-quality early years education really sets children off on the right foot for the rest of their education and, in fact, their lives, so the lack of places truly is worrying. We call on the Government, local authorities and all of those in the sector to ensure there is enough funding for places for all children in this country. We need to particularly make sure that families who cannot afford to make up the funding needed to supplement their free hours are able to get their children into early years education.

‘There is considerable change coming over the coming year and I look forward to reporting on the impact of that in our next report.’

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