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Nurseries will be able to pay a fee to be re-inspected by Ofsted, under a clause in the Children and Families Bill.
The move is a victory for early years organisations, who have been calling for the change for nurseries who have been judged to be Satisfactory, as at the moment they have to wait up to four years to be re-inspected.
The Pre-School Learning Alliance called it “grossly unfair” that settings who have been labelled Satisfactory and have improved their provision have to wait so long to demonstrate they have done so.
So it has welcomed the Government’s decision in the Bill (Part 4 and paragraph 74), that the Chief Inspector may charge a prescribed fee for conducting an inspection of early years provision where – ‘the inspection is conducted at the request of a registered person who provides that early years provision, and the Chief Inspector is required by the Secretary of State to conduct that inspection’.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “We welcome the Government’s plan to charge fees for re-inspection of early years provision. This is something that the Alliance as part of the Major Providers Group has been lobbying for some time.
“Settings will now have an opportunity to be re-inspected to demonstrate that they have further improved without having to wait for 47 months before being able to do so. This is good news for the sector.”
Other proposals in the Bill are to introduce shared parental leave after a baby is born. Both parents will be able to take off time to attend antenatal appointments and leave and pay entitlements for parents who adopt will be more in line with what is available to birth parents. All employees regardless of whether they are parents will be able to apply for flexible working.
Business Minister Jo Swinson called current workplace arrangements “old-fashioned and rigid” and said: “The Children and Families Bill will bring the way mums and dads balance their lives at work and at home into the 21st century.
“Employers will soon get used to more men taking time off after their child is born and more mothers returning to work earlier, shattering the perception that it is mainly a woman's role to stay at home and look after the child. These measures will really help our aim of ensuring more businesses are making best use of women's talents throughout the organisation, from the boardroom to the shop floor.”
“This Bill will also allow fathers to have greater involvement in the early stages of pregnancy and raising their child.”
The Government also wants to introduce childminder agencies to help more childminders into the market and offer greater support and quality assurance and remove bureaucracy so that it is easier for schools to offer ‘wrap-around’ care.
In addition, it wants to make sure that the Children’s Commissioner can act as a strong advocate for children, helping to embed a culture where children’s rights and interests are duly recognised.
The Bill will also reform the systems for adoption, looked after children, family justice and special educational needs.
In terms of educational needs, the Bill will extend the SEN (Special Educational Needs) system from birth to 25, giving children, young people and their parents greater control and choice in decisions and ensuring needs are properly met.
Families will be offered personal budgets so that they have more control over the support they need.
Sir Paul Ennals, interim director of Strategy at Sense, a charity campaigning children and adults who are deafblind, welcomed the Children and Families Bill and said: “The bill will introduce integrated assessment and provision for children with SEN, through new Education, Health and Care Plans. Local authorities will also be obliged to publish a ‘local offer’ in which they describe the education, health and care services they expect to be available.
“To ensure that the Bill delivers improvements to the quality and the availability of services, Sense considers that the local offer must be underpinned by national standards which set a minimum level of provision for SEN, that includes specifying specialist support services for deafblind children.
“Sense will also campaign to ensure that assessments of education, health and care recognise the specific needs of deafblind children and their families.”
However the National Deaf Children’s Society called the Bill “disappointing” for deaf children and their families and a spokeswoman said: “We believe these reforms contained in the bill are doomed to failure unless the Government takes action to stop local cuts to the specialist staff that are vital to implement the changes. Teachers of the deaf and speech and language therapists are falling under the axe, and our Stolen Futures investigation has uncovered that a third of England’s councils will have made cuts to vital education support for deaf children – seriously threatening their ability to achieve their potential.
“Despite the Government’s own inspectors recognising that specialist education services are vital for deaf children, these services are still not routinely inspected by Ofsted giving them virtually no formal scrutiny.”
For more information on the Bill see http://www.education.gov.uk/a00221161/children-families-bill