Memorandum submitted by Daycare Trust
1.1 Daycare Trust is the national childcare charity,
campaigning for high quality, accessible, affordable childcare
for all and raising the voices of children, parents and carers.
We undertake research, campaign on childcare issues, work with
providers in different types of early years' settings, as well
as providing information for parents and carers. Our surveys of
parents and providers give a comprehensive and up-to-date picture
of issues facing these groups and we have incorporated this research
into our evidence.
1.2 Many independent studies show that young
children who spent time in nurseries and in other high quality
early years settings have better social and learning outcomes
at school and in later life but only if these settings
provide a good quality service. Ofsted inspections, against
the criteria outlined in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS),
are an essential part of quality control. However, Changes in
staff and/or management can easily change the quality (and safety)
of early years settings, thus inspections must continue to be
made regularly. Daycare Trust recommends at least a two year inspection
cycle for settings experiencing high staff turnover.
1.3 To ensure that all children are cared for
in a safe and stimulating environment, Daycare Trust recommends
that compliance with the Childcare Register be made compulsory
for nannies and those providing childcare or organising activities
for older children.
1.4 Daycare Trust strongly recommends that the
inspection of all early years provision remain the responsibility
of one inspectorate. Parental awareness of early years inspection
reports and their use of them is likely to be damaged if Ofsted's
inspection role is broken up and allocated to other organisations.
1.5 Daycare Trust believes that there must be
more efforts made to include parents and children in the inspection
process to a greater extent than at present. Daycare Trust recommends
that Ofsted review the format of its reports, with the aim of
providing more accessible and more useful information for parents
of young children. Daycare Trust also recommends that Ofsted considers
highlighting good practice in reports. This would contribute to
greater parental understanding of quality.
2. EVIDENCE FROM
2.1 Daycare Trust works closely with parents
and carers. There is limited evidence on the extent to which parents
use Ofsted reports when choosing an early years setting. Research
carried out by Daycare Trust for the London Early Years Foundation
(a social enterprise with 20 nurseries across London) suggested
that 50.2% of the sample of parents had consulted Ofsted reports,
although most parents also used other sources of information before
making a judgement. In contrast, Daycare Trust research on parents
understandings of "quality" early years provision showed
very low usage of Ofsted reports. In one focus groups with parents,
only one parent had used Ofsted reports to select childcare. Many
more had used Ofsted reports to select schools for older children.
One parent who spoke English, but as a second language, found
it difficult to understand Ofsted reports. Our research also showed
that some parents who consulted Ofsted reports felt that some
of the information in them is superficial and did not help them
2.2 As awareness of Ofsted's role and use of
their reports is lower for parents choosing an early years setting
than it is for schools, a situation which could be improved with
greater promotion of Ofsted's role and better quality reports.
Daycare Trust recommends that Ofsted review the format of its
reports, with the aim of providing more accessible and more useful
information for parents of young children.
2.3 Daycare Trust also works with early years'
providers to improve the quality, availability and range of early
childhood education and care, and respond to issues raised by
early years providers. We run the London Childcare Providers Network,
a project funded by London Councils. Our 2010 London Childcare
Providers Survey indicated that concerns about Ofsted inspections
were the most important issue facing the early years' sector in
London, with 42.4% of our sample of providers citing this as a
"top five" concern. When these results were broken down
by sector, however, it was only among childminders and private
and voluntary sector day nurseries that concern about Ofsted inspections
featured a "top five" issue. Moreover, between 2009
and 2010 there was a 33% fall the fall in the proportion of London
early years providers who believed that Ofsted inspections was
a "top five" concern for them.
This suggests that worries about Ofsted fall as providers gain
familiarity with the inspection process. We believe that there
is little evidence to show that childminders are leaving the profession
as a consequence of the Ofsted inspection processs. However, very
major changes to the Ofsted inspection process in the immediate
future have the potential to damage workforce morale.
2.4 Early years provider srely on obtaining hard
copies of the EYFS and its support materials, for staff training,
planning and to prepare for inspections. At present early years
providers are unable to obtain hard copies of the EYFS, even though
its content will not change until 2012. This is unacceptable .
3. PURPOSES OF
3.1 Daycare Trust believes that the purposes
of inspections of early years' settings are three-fold:
- To ensure that young children receive high quality
and safe early childhood education and care, by inspecting against
the criteria outlined in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
- To drive up standards
- To ensure that early years settings are accountable
to parents and to provide information to enable them to choose
the most appropriate setting for them.
3.2 While we feel that the Ofsted inspection
process (and EYFS) contribute to children's welfare and learning
and has driven up standards, we feel that Ofsted inspections have
had quite a limited role in helping parents choose settings and
ensuring greater accountability to parents. This is because of
a relatively low awareness among parents of Ofsted's early years
role . The format and sometimes superficial content of the reports
does not add to accountability. These issues could be remedied
by greater publicity about Ofsted's early years role, and by reviewing
the inspection process, format and content of Ofsted reports.
4. THE IMPACT
4.1 Daycare Trust believes that both the introduction
of EYFS and the Ofsted inspection of early years' settings against
the EYFS criteria have had a major effect in driving up quality.
In particular, bringing child minders into a unified inspection
process has had a major impact on improving the quality of the
learning environment for children cared for by childminders. Daycare
Trust's 2010 London Childcare Providers' Survey, showed that 70%
of respondents (who included child minders) believed that the
EYFS and Ofsted inspections had a positive impact on the quality
4.2 While Ofsted inspection of early years' settings
against the EYFS criteria has had a positive impact on standards,
Daycare Trust is concerned that the registration of nannies (on
the Childcare Register) is voluntary, as is the registration of
those providing after school and holiday care to children over
eight years old, leading to a two tier system for child protection
and welfare. We recommend that compliance with the Childcare Register
be made compulsory for nannies and those providing childcare or
organising activities for older children.
5. THE PERFORMANCE
5.1 While Daycare Trust believes that the Ofsted
inspection process has had a major impact on the quality of early
childhood education and care process, we feel that the early childhood
education and care sector is not afforded sufficient importance
and priority within Ofsted. It has taken until 2010 to introduce
a common inspection framework for children's centres an
unacceptably long delay.
5.2 Ofsted has produced many influential research
reports drawing from its own primary research, as well as inspection
evidence. These reports have reached a wide audience in schools,
because of the weight given to a report authored by Ofsted. As
a consequence, many of these reports have had a positive impact
on educational standards and child welfare. It is rather disappointing
that Ofsted has only published five research reports that relate
to early childhood education and care since January 2008.
5.3 We do not presently have information about
the numbers of Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMIs) who have a background
in early years education and have requested this information from
Ofsted. Clearly, it is important that there is sufficient expertise
on early childhood education and care among HMI and more broadly
5.4 We recommend Ofsted considers:
- Expanding Ofsted's non-executive board to include
an expert on early childhood education and care.
- Reviewing the composition of HMI from the perspective
of early childhood education and care
- Working with experts within the early childhood
education and care sector to consider research priorities and
other strategies to drive up quality in early childhood education
5.5 At present Government is undertaking
a review of the EYFS, led by Dame Claire Tickell. It is planned
that a revised EYFS be implemented in 2012. It is highly likely
that changes in the revised EYFS will affect the Ofsted inspection
framework. It is essential that change to the early years inspection
framework be communicated early to practitioners and that printed
materials are ready. Long delays in issuing inspection frameworks
and printed materials are unacceptable.
6.1 All those delivering early years provision
as defined by the Childcare Act 2006 must register with Ofsted's
Early Years Register. Ofsted inspections are carried out every
three years for providers on the Early Years Register, in addition
to a registration visit when a provider first applies to be on
the Register. Daycare Trust is concerned that a three year cycle
may not highlight poor or dangerous practice in early years' settings,
as a consequence of high staff turnover in the sector. Private
and voluntary sector day nurseries experience particularly high
staff turnover. Changes in staff and/or management can easily
change the environment in early years settings, thus inspections
must continue to be made regularly. Daycare Trust recommends at
least a two year inspection cycle for settings experiencing high
staff turnover. Ofsted could consider setting a staff turnover
threshold and when this is exceeded, a more frequently inspection
regime be out in place.
6.2 Daycare Trust is concerned that that Ofsted
does not have the capacity to follow up on recommendations made
until the next inspection, unless a provider is judged inadequate
and therefore has a follow-up visit. A further limitation of Ofsted
inspections is that they only take a snapshot of provision on
the day of inspection; they are almost immediately out of date.
Thus if a provider is judged satisfactory but takes immediate
action to improve their provision and put into place any recommendations
made by Ofsted and raises their standards to "good",
this will not be reflected in publicly available information for
another three years, or longer if it is on the Childcare Register.
We note that local authorities can make their own judgments about
early years provision between Ofsted inspections, but information
from local authority inspections is not readily accessible by
6.3 While private day nurseries are inspected
by Ofsted, early years provision within independent schools is
the now responsibility of the Independent Schools Inspectorate
(ISI) which reports to and is monitored by Ofsted. Daycare Trust
has no concerns about the ISI's role in inspecting early years
provision in independent schools.
6.4 Ofsted also operates the Childcare Register
for those providing childcare for children over the age of five.
For childcare providers for children aged five and over, there
is limited inspection (only a Criminal Records Bureau check and
checks on 10% of providers each year), unless a complaint is made
against the provider. Ofsted registration (on the Childcare Register)
is compulsory for children aged between five and eight years but
- those providing care for children aged over eight;
- nannies providing care in children's own homes;
- those providing short term care, for example,
crèches in supermarkets; and
- those providing activity based sessions, for
example sports coaching.
6.5 Daycare Trust's helpline has occasionally
received calls from parents whose children have been mistreated
or neglected by nannies. We are concerned that compliance with
the Childcare Register is voluntary for nannies and some other
providers of childcare, as this gives rise to a two tier system
for child protection and welfare. We recommend that compliance
with the Childcare Register be made compulsory for nannies and
those providing childcare or organising activities for older children.
7. INSPECTION METHODOLOGY
7.1 Ofsted sets a broad framework for its inspections.
These frameworks outline the areas and issues that need to be
inspected. Based on this broad framework, inspectors or organizations
carrying out inspections draw up their own schedule for an actual
inspection. A number of academics and commentators, including
Sir Mike Tomlinson, have criticised Ofsted's inspection framework
methodology as being too rigid, too reliant on collecting paper
work and thus failing to highlight important issues. "Tick
box approach" is an epithet used in some popular critiques
of Ofsted. Daycare Trust believe that the fault for this does
not lie solely with Ofsted's inspection frameworks, rather the
interpretation of them by inspectors and organisations. It is
important that Ofsted uses a standardised methodology and approach
to grading quality. We would, however, like to see greater weight
given to observations and also inspectors given the opportunity
to make observations outside the formal structure of the inspection
framework and that importance given to these observations in drafting
the final report. If this was done, we believe that the quality
of information in Ofsted reports would improve. This would enable
parents to make a more informed choice about early childhood and
education and care for their children.
7.2 Daycare Trust believes that there must be
more efforts made to include parents and children in the inspection
process to a greater extent than at present. Ofsted inspectors
must actively approach parents themselves, rather than leave it
to providers to filter contact. Processes that encourage parents
and children's views must be developed and encouraged.
7.3 Ofsted measures provision against EYFS minimum
standards. While inspection reports can highlight good practice
but the judgments are about whether providers meet minimum standards.
Daycare Trust recommends that Ofsted considers highlighting good
practice in reports. This would contribute to greater parental
understanding of quality.
7.4 There are some differences in the inspection
processes for different early years' settings. Nursery and reception
provision in primary schools requires a minimum notice of inspection
of two days. There is no minimum notice for other forms of early
years provision. Daycare Trust believes that there should be a
level playing field in relation to the notice received by providers.
7.5 Local authorities also undertake their own
inspections of early years' provision. One of the aims of local
authority inspections is to determine which provision receives
funding to deliver the free part-time places for the most disadvantaged
two year olds. Local authorities use their own inspection framework
and grading criteria and require that nurseries complete different
paperwork. Daycare Trust recommends greater coordination between
Ofsted and local authority inspections to harmonise criteria for
making judgments and to minimise administrative demands placed
8. THE FUTURE
8.1 Young children who receive early childhood
education and care may attend a range of different settings including:
- Nursery and reception classes in primary schools.
- Local authority nurseries.
- Sure Start children's centres.
- Voluntary and private sector day nurseries.
- Sessional care settings run by public sector,
voluntary sector or private providers.
- Play groups.
- After school and holiday care.
8.2 Prior to Ofsted taking over the inspection
of childcare in 2005, different early years' settings were inspected
by different bodies, using a range of different methods. The quality
of information made available to parents was much poorer before
2005 and Ofsted's involvement. Additionally, bringing childminders
into a unified early years inspection process has had a major
impact on improving the quality of the learning environment for
children cared for by childminders. Daycare Trust strongly recommends
that the inspection of all early years provision remain the responsibility
of one inspectorate.
8.3 At present, Ofsted has a strong brand identity.
Many parents know that Ofsted inspects schools although they are
less aware of its role inspecting early years' settings. Parental
awareness of early years inspection reports and their use of them
is likely to be damaged if Ofsted's inspection role is broken
up and allocated to other organisations.
9.1 Our research shows that about half of parents
of young children use Ofsted reports before choosing early years
provision, usually alongside other sources of information. We
believe that awareness and use of Ofsted reports is lower for
parents choosing an early years setting than it is for schools.
As already noted, some of the information included in reports
is not particularly accessible, and often quite superficial. Daycare
Trust recommends that Ofsted promote its role among parents and
also review the format of its reports from the perspective of
accessibility to parents. Efforts to involve a greater number
of parents in inspections would also contribute to greater accountability.
34 Daycare Trust (2010) London Childcare Providers
Survey, London: Daycare Trust
Ibid (2009) London Childcare Providers Survey, London:
Daycare Trust. Back