Sector Leaders Hit Out At Confusing And Complicated Childcare Plans

Plans for regulating and inspecting childcare for older children could prove too confusing for providers and parents, warn sector leaders. Childcare organisations are currently preparing their responses to a consultation on the new Ofsted Childcare Register, which was published recently. But the plans have already been branded as complicated and unclear. The register will apply to childcare for over fives. Registration will be compulsory for childcare catering for children aged up to eight unless run directly by a school. Childcare run by schools will be inspected as part of school inspections.

However, schools will be given guidance that says they should follow the register’s requirements, the proposals state. Childcare run by an outside provider on a school site will be registered.

Emma Knights, joint chief executive of the Daycare Trust, said this system “could be confusing for settings and parents”. She added: “This could lead to different inspection regimes for very similar out-of-school provision.”

Childcare services for over eights can choose whether to register. But only registered services will be eligible for childcare benefits and childcare vouchers. Local authorities will promote registered providers and schools will be advised only to work with registered providers to develop extended services.

Claire Schofield, head of communications at the National Day Nurseries Association, said providers were still unclear how voluntary registration would work. “That includes what will happen if someone is de-registered,” said Schofield. “Will there be anything to stop them running childcare?”

Under the plans, only one in 10 providers on the register will be inspected each year to target resources. And registration requirements would be less stringent for voluntary registered childcare. For example, providers will not need to stick to set adult to child ratios or staff qualification levels.

Knights said this was an issue the trust would examine carefully. “One of the key ways of ensuring children get the attention they need and deserve is by making sure there are enough adults,” she said.