Tougher nursery inspections as Ofsted vows to raise standards

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OFSTED has announced a toughening up of early years inspections to make it clear that only provision that is “good” or better is acceptable for very young children.

The education watchdog is replacing the category of satisfactory with “requires improvement” in November – as it has already done for schools and colleges.

From November, pre-schools and nurseries requiring improvement will have a maximum of two years to get to “good” – otherwise they face the prospect of being judged ‘inadequate’.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, 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.”

Ofsted published the findings of its Good Early Years Provision For All consultation yesterday.

The consultation and Ofsted’s plans do not include childminders as the Government is considering new initiatives in this area, including the possibility of a childminders agency being established.

Sir Michael said: “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.

“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.”

As a result of comments from 
the consultation, changes to the new inspection framework will include the “satisfactory” judgment being replaced with “requires improvement” for all early years providers.

Any setting which is found to be “inadequate” – the lowest rating Ofsted can give is likely to be re-inspected after six months.

If sufficient improvements are not made and it is found to be still be inadequate again after re-inspection, Ofsted may take steps to cancel its registration.

For pre-schools and nurseries there will be re-inspection within a year for those which require improvement with the expectation their grading will get to ‘good’ within two years.

Those that fail to improve after two years are likely to be judged “inadequate”.

According to Ofsted’s Dataview website just six per cent of nurseries in Yorkshire are currently rated as satisfactory and none have been found to be inadequate. Most – 52 per cent – are outstanding and another 42 per cent are found to be good.

The formal consultation Good Early Years Provision For All ran between April and May and Ofsted received more than 2,500 responses from professionals, parents and carers.

The changes are intended to strengthen the impact of Ofsted’s inspection and improvement activity through more frequent monitoring of early years provision in settings which are found to be less than good.

The “requires improvement” category was brought in for schools in September last year, as part of efforts to tackle schools considered to be coasting – those which remain satisfactory for several inspections.

Schools can now only remain in the “requires improvement” category for three years. Ofsted has also toughened up its inspection regime by stating a school can only receive the top rating of “outstanding” if its teaching is outstanding. Previously, schools could still get a top report without outstanding teaching if performance in other areas was strong.