Concern at number of unqualified nannies on Ofsted childcare register

Flaws in Ofsted’s new childcare register mean that nannies with no qualifications, no experience and no knowledge of first aid are being issued with certificates approving them for work.

Almost 7,000 nannies are on the register, but a slimmed-down vetting procedure means the only thing that Ofsted checks is their criminal record.

Nannies pay £100 a year to the education watchdog to be on the register. The flaws came to light after one nanny agency was so angered at the number of unqualified, inexperienced “Ofsted-registered” nannies trying to get on to its books it decided to register its chief executive undercover.

Karen Dixon, who runs the London Nanny Company and Family Match in Winchester, has a purely commercial background, yet she was immediately registered, despite having never cared for children and having no qualifications or first-aid skills. She simply ticked all the boxes and sent in a printout from the internet of local St John Ambulance courses in her area.

After she received her registration certificate, she wrote to Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector, to raise the flaws. Ms Gilbert wrote back threatening to prosecute her for making a false declaration. The chief inspector said that there was no loophole, and did not ask for the certificate back. As far as any parent would know, Ms Dixon, 48, is an Ofsted-registered nanny.

Ms Gilbert will be giving evidence on Monday to MPs on how Ofsted is managing to inspect nannies, childminders and children’s social services on top of all the primary and secondary schools in England. Critics on the Commons Select Committee for Children, Schools and Families say that it cannot cope with all its many new responsibilities.

The nanny childcare register was set up in 2005 when tax breaks were first offered to parents employing home-based care. It was intended to act as a check on whether the family was employing a legitimate nanny. At first it was run by the Sure Start programme, which required nannies to apply in person with all their documents.

In 2007, ministers gave responsibility for the register to Ofsted, which changed to a paper-based system. with post offices in charge of checking documents. It carries out no checks itself, aside from the initial CRB check which is only at the time of application. According to a recent survey on the Mumsnet website, 67 per cent of parents think that registered nannies have an Ofsted stamp of approval.

“When Sure Start ran the system, it was rigorous,” Ms Dixon said. “Ofsted does not seem to know how to handle this area of the childcare market. I have had nannies coming to me who are not even eligible to work in the UK but are on the Ofsted register.”

Ofsted said it had new procedures to help to guard against fraudulent applications. “Ofsted will cancel the registration of anyone who fails to demonstrate they meet the requirements,” said a statement. “As registration is not compulsory, nannies can continue to offer childcare without being registered with Ofsted. However, it is not always possible to guard against those who are prepared to break the law so parents should also be vigilant.”