Could Do Better, Ofsted Report Tells Nurseries

Daycare standards in England improved slightly over the past year, according to inspectors, but more than four in 10 children were still in childcare settings that were no better than satisfactory.

{mosimage}An Ofsted report published today reveals 57% of childcare providers inspected in 2006-7 were judged good or outstanding. It means that, of about half a million children being cared for in the places inspected, 285,000 received good or outstanding childcare, but for 215,000 care was only satisfactory or inadequate.

Inadequate providers are revisited by Ofsted inspectors, but satisfactory ones are also expected to improve. The proportion of providers overall found to be inadequate was 4%, the same as in 2005-6.

The education and care watchdog also identified a 6% rise in the proportion of providers offering good or outstanding early education, though the proportion of childminders judged to be good or better was lower by 6% than the previous year – a slide inspectors suggested could reflect the number of new, less experienced childminders visited in 2006-7.

Where establishments were providing government-funded early education for children aged three to four, 60% were judged good or outstanding.

The education offered in nurseries will be reviewed after a study by Durham University suggesting the government’s overhaul of early years education has made no difference to youngsters’ development and skills at the start of school.

About 125,000 children are being left with childminders and nurseries that are no better than satisfactory, Ofsted said.

And while most nurseries and playgroups offer good quality childcare, hundreds of parents have complained that their children are being treated badly.

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Christine Gilbert, stressed that there had been many improvements. “But where provision is inadequate we will continue to monitor those providers and take enforcement action where necessary,” she said.

The report, Getting on Well: Enjoying, Achieving and Contributing, was based on inspections of 27,200 childcare organisations from April 2006 to March this year.

It said about one in 12 creches were judged “inadequate” and 7% of extended schools, which run after-school clubs and childcare, were also rated “inadequate”, despite a drive to set up more.

Nearly 1,000 complaints were received from parents, said the report. Complaints included children being told to remain silent for long periods or childminders using racially abusive language.

The children’s minister, Beverley Hughes, yesterday defended the early years initiatives, saying research showed that two years of high-quality early education could give young children a four- to six-month advantage at entry to reception class, and help poorer children catch up.