Ofsted carried out over 12,000 inspections this year and found that 85% were good or outstanding, with childminders more likely to receive a good or outstanding grade. Whilst these are positive statistics, the report highlights key challenges faced by the sector:
- The report confirms that the number of childminders registered with Ofsted has halved in the past 10 years, from 55,300 in 2013 to 27,000 at year end. For the last decade, the number of childminders registering has been falling and is consistently lower than the numbers leaving, and Ofsted have concluded that childminders are simply not being replenished at the rate that they should be. Whilst Ofsted appear to have offered some insight into the reason for this, such as housing limitations, little regard appears to have been given as to what issues have been causing some childminders to leave the sector and how Ofsted could assist with this.
- Ofsted’s report has also highlighted key issues experienced by childcare providers in relation to recruitment and retention. Ofsted have found that the levels of unqualified staff within nurseries and pre-schools have increased to one in five (compared to one in seven in 2018), and have noted that the use of agency staff has increased to ensure that ratios are maintained. These issues in turn impact upon the quality of the provision. Ofsted have cited a number of reasons for this, including low wages, poor working conditions, competing sectors that pay more, and limited opportunities for professional development.
Whilst it is positive that these issues are being acknowledged by Ofsted, those within the sector are likely to continue to feel disillusioned unless the government takes urgent action to make the early years sector a priority.
Furthermore, a difficulty is that too often we are seeing recruitment and retention issues not being taken into consideration during inspection of providers. Inspectors must ensure that the issues faced by the sector are properly considered when reaching conclusions during inspection or making decisions on deferral requests by providers.
- Ofsted have highlighted that 48% of nursery and pre-school providers are owned by multiple provider. Ofsted state that ‘inspection and regulation are most effective and efficient when they take into account how providers operate. This means considering how we might be able to inspect and regulate the structures, systems and processes multiple providers uses across nurseries. This would allow us to hold them to account for the quality of provision across all their settings.’ Whilst Ofsted have not stated how this will be undertaken, this suggests that they may be considering changing how multiple providers are inspected in the future.
Our specialist Ofsted lawyers provide advice and representation to registered early years, childcare, education and social care providers in relation to compliance, inspections, enforcement action and appeals to the first-tier tribunal (Health, Education and Social Care Chamber). If you would like to speak to a member of the team about any aspect of our work please call us on 0161 696 6250 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.