Early years providers have much to celebrate

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Feedback from the new inspections is heartening, writes Gill Jones

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Gill Jones

It is four months into the new inspection arrangements – how have you found them?

It is early days, but late last week we published figures about the outcomes of almost 3,500 inspections under the new way of inspecting early years settings. These figures do not indicate a significant change in our judgements since we implemented the common inspection framework on 1 September.
 
We will have to wait until March 2016 to see official statistics about how early years providers have fared under the new common inspection framework. At that point we will publish statistics about inspection outcomes of childcare providers as of 31 December 2015.

I have been heartened by feedback from my team and from early years providers in the last few months.
 
When it comes to the early years, there is much to celebrate. It is now more than two years since we raised the bar for all early years providers and replaced 'satisfactory' with 'requires improvement'.
 
In the last five years, the proportion of good and outstanding providers has risen by 16%. That is an impressive achievement.
 
Moreover, that improvement is spread across the early years sector. It applies as much to childminders as it applies to pre-schools. Nursery schools remain the star performers – 97 per cent are either good or outstanding. But standards amongst childminders have risen at the fastest rate.
 
That improvement is spread across the length and breadth of England. There is only a 5 per cent gap between the poorest and best performing areas. It is striking that the North East has the highest proportion of providers on non-domestic premises judged good or outstanding; it also performs well when it comes to primary school inspection outcomes.
 
A tough Ofsted registration process plays an important role in making sure new providers are of a high standard. But my team works hard to ensure that settings judged as less than good improve.
 
By that I mean that there is swift re-inspection when an early years setting is judged to be inadequate and we respond quickly to parental concerns.
 
I hope providers appreciate the consistency and clarity of the four individual judgements under the common inspection framework, which covers provision from birth to adulthood. When inspectors go into a nursery or any other setting we want, as far as possible, to capture the impact of the leadership culture. To explain what leaders are doing to bring out the best in their staff as well as, of course, the young children.
 
I think it is fair to say we have moved on from the debate about early years teaching and how that applies to young children. In my conversations with early years professionals and association leaders, they are fully on-board with the concept that we teach children to learn, often through play. We have outlined what we mean by this in the early years inspection handbook, and illustrated it with Ofsted films on YouTube.
 
The best early years professionals know it is about providing a nurturing environment where young children can develop, and be confident learners when they start in Reception at primary school.

We know that early years teaching focused on speech, language, and communication helps children to develop the skills and knowledge they need. Many young children already get that at home. For disadvantaged children, it is particularly important that they are able to benefit from high quality early education.
 
Practitioners need to know how to help children develop their speech and language, particularly where children are slow starting to talk. Inspectors will ask them how they help children to make progress from their different starting points and how they keep parents in touch with their child’s development.
 
Today we have published a new document, the Ofsted Early years and childcare registration handbook. This sets out in one useful place the definitions of the early years register, and the childcare register, the processes for making an application, and how Ofsted assesses suitability for registration.
 
Finally, I am very much aware that while schools and further education colleges are closed for two weeks over the festive period, many nurseries and other forms of early years settings will remain open to help working parents. So, on that note I hope you are able to enjoy some time off over the festive period and I wish you all the best for a happy and healthy 2016.
 

  • The Early Years and Childcare Registration handbook is now online here 
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