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Ofsted inspectors need better training as they are failing to properly judge the quality of care given by nurseries and pre-schools, according to the think tank IPPR.
The report published by IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) argues that Ofsted ratings do not provide an accurate assessment of the care given to England’s youngest children. Early years settings rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted often receive the lowest scores - on scales designed specifically for infants and toddlers.
The report ‘Early developments: bridging the gap between evidence and policy in early years development’ claims that some inspectors do not have enough understanding of early years care and what is needed for children under five. Imogen Parker, who wrote the report, says younger children require different approaches to learning and development and says ‘schoolification’ should be avoided.
She said: “There is no statistical relationship between Ofsted grades and quality of care infants and toddlers are receiving. While Ofsted ratings are a reasonably good predictor for outcomes at school age, Ofsted grades for early years settings are less good at predicting children’s developmental outcomes. Ofsted ‘outstanding’ and ‘poor’ grades don’t always reflect which centres are really providing quality care.
“If the Government is serious about boosting quality for the sake of child development, it needs to think more broadly about how it assesses care given in the early years. Ofsted ratings will not go far enough to drive quality provision, particularly with the youngest children.”
The Government wants to end all assessments by local authorities and make Ofsted the only judge of quality.
In response to the report, Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years) said: “IPPR’s claims that centres can be rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted whilst neglecting a proper and thorough assessment of early years development is a cause for concern that PACEY would want Ofsted to investigate.
“PACEY supports the Ofsted inspection model. However their judgement has to be robust, reliable and consistent. This is crucial to help improve the quality of early years care; help parents make important decisions about their child’s care and support childcare professionals to improvement. An inaccurate assessment can be extremely damaging to childminders and nursery settings’ businesses. Across all ratings childcare professionals also need greater support and guidance to improve their ratings.”
The report also calls for the Government to double the number of graduates working in nurseries.
Currently England has one early years graduate to 96 children in day care. Only 15 per cent of England’s early years workforce have a degree level qualification, compared to 60 per cent in Denmark and 80 per cent in New Zealand. The IPPR report concludes that more than 12,000 new graduates are needed to work in early years in England.
The report argues that the Graduate Leaders Fund, scrapped in 2011, should be reinstated because it was highly effective in boosting the number of graduates in nurseries and childminders.