Editor's View - Ofsted reveals a taste for politics

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Is it within the remit of a regulatory body to get political?

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Well, Ofsted certainly took the collective breath of the sector away with its first annual early years lecture, delivered last week by national director of education Sue Gregory.

For years, Ofsted has maintained that it doesn't make policy, merely inspects against the criteria that it is given. It has shied away from controversy.

Yet suddenly, it came out with all guns blazing, with Ms Gregory calling for early years funding to be focused on the most deprived areas, for the majority of early years staff to be qualified to graduate level in a much-faster timescale than Cathy Nutbrown suggests, and for childminders to provide care not education as they might not be up to the job of delivering all the EYFS!

It also emerged that Ofsted intends to 'do more than inspect' and take on a much greater role in improving quality.

There were, of course, plenty who argued against various points made by Ms Gregory. Although after her speech she maintained that she was not for ending universal provision of the free entitlement, it certainly came over that way. And as Kathy Sylva and others pointed out, evidence shows that disadvantaged children do best in socially mixed provision.

Frustratingly, Ofsted had decided that money should not be part of the discussion. Yet how would middle-income parents, deprived of the free entitlement, pay fees at nurseries employing mainly graduates? And the suggestion that care and education should be more not less separate would be a backward step.

It was all rather exciting, however. And taking place just before the Government's response to Nutbrown and the Childcare Commission, it was highly political.

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