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‘Satisfactory’ is no longer good enough for nurseries announces Ofsted

Article By: Julia Corbett, News Editor

Ofsted has announced that early years inspections will now echo schools and colleges with a judgement of ‘Satisfactory’ being replaced with ‘Requires improvement’.

In a move to drive up standards in childcare providers, Ofsted has announced that only a provider that is ‘Good’ or better should be allowed to provide childcare for very young children.

The change will take place from 4 November 2013 and from that date childcare providers that are rated as ‘Satisfactory’ will have two years to improve their services to a level that Ofsted can rate as ‘Good.’

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw said: “The early years are crucial. That’s why only a good standard of education and care is acceptable for our youngest children.

“Pre-schools and nurseries need to give children a solid foundation. Two years is a long time in a child’s life and it’s long enough for a setting to improve. I agree with the parents who told us in our consultation that four years is too long to wait for a nursery to reach the good standard that every child deserves.

“As a nation, we spend around £5bn a year on funded early education but too many pre-schools and nurseries across the country are not yet good, particularly in the most deprived areas. That’s why Ofsted is determined to introduce greater challenge into the early years sector.”

The announcement that ‘Good’ will be the minimum standard expected was published in Ofsted’s proposals for early years providers from its 'Good early years provision for all' consultation.

However both the Pre-school Learning Alliance and National Day Nurseries Association have criticised Ofsted’s move to change its assessments of nurseries by raising concerns about the fairness of Ofsted’s judgements.

After Ofsted introduced a new inspection framework last September, there has been an increase in the amount of nurseries and pre-schools receiving a downgraded rating from ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Satisfactory’.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre school Learning Alliance, said, “The sector is growing more concerned by the day about the unfairness of Ofsted inspections, with an increasing number of childcare providers having their rating downgraded.

“Unless Ofsted acts to sort this out, what is intended to move the sector towards higher standards could end up being unfairly detrimental to some settings.

“Given the concerns over current inspection standards the sector is likely to be greatly concerned at the move, which seems like another attack on the sector.”

The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has also called for Ofsted to ensure the inspections it delivers are fair and of a good standard in order gain the confidence of child care providers in their inspections.

Chief executive of NDNA, Purnima Tanuku, said: “We agree with Sir Michael Wilshaw's vision that all children should have the benefit of good or outstanding early years education.

“But as Ofsted raises the bar for nurseries, then nurseries will in turn want to be confident of robust, consistent and accurate inspection by Ofsted.

“Good quality nurseries are experiencing downgraded Ofsted judgements they have serious concerns about. NDNA has seen a big a rise in the number of members calling for advice and support which we have logged and will be meeting Ofsted next week to discuss.”

Those that do not reach a ‘Good’ standard and do not improve within a two year time frame will be judged as ‘Inadequate’.

Ms Tanuku described NDNA’s concerns about the changes to the grading system, and said: “The result is, ‘Good’ now becomes a very broad category making the need for transparency on the way judgements are made absolutely vital. The grading must properly reflect the nursery.”

Mr Wilshaw championed the importance of Ofsted’s role in ensuring the country's childcare providers are of a high quality.

He said: “Early years provision is only as good as the quality of interaction between adults and children. The best providers understand the importance of teaching children through their play while also giving them structures and routines which bring order and security into their lives. It is vital that very young children make good progress so that they succeed in later years. I am clear that we ignore early education and care at our peril.”

Mr Leitch of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, has raised further concerns in connection to Ofsted’s changes, claiming that a disproportionate amount of nursery settings that are at risk or being downgraded are in deprived communities.

He has suggested that the impact of the action taken on these nurseries by Ofsted could have a negative effect on the care children in deprived communities will receive.

Mr Leitch said: “How is this tougher inspection regime good for the sector? It is one thing to have improved outcomes for early years settings, but without the infrastructure to support and assist them, the sector feels like it is on a hiding to nothing. Ask anybody in the sector what is their biggest concern at this particular point in time, and they will say Ofsted.

“Since Ofsted anticipates that settings in areas of deprivation will receive lower Ofsted ratings, we fear that an unintended consequence of these changes may be the devastation of childcare services in these areas, where they are needed most. This would be catastrophic at a time when the Government targeted the 250,000 most deprived two-year-olds in England to receive free childcare.”

Ofsted has said that the impact an ‘Inadequate’ decision will have on a childcare provider will be dealt with on a case by case basis to ensure the welfare of the children receiving care is taken into consideration throughout any changes.

Mss Tanuku of NDNA said: “What we need to remember is that 78 per cent of nurseries are already rated Good or Outstanding.

“We have a robust early years sector with professionals who really care about providing the best early education possible. We want to work with Ofsted to ensure it continues that way.”


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Louise Rose

09 Aug 2013 3:17 PM

Sorry but someone really needs to explain to me how nurseries in deprived areas are more likely to be rated lower than others!!!! Are we saying that nurseries in more affluent areas who may be able to afford more toys, equipment etc are obviously providing better care - so to be graced with an outstanding its about the equipment we have and not about or skills are carers!! So whats the point in pushing EYP if its all about what we have?????