Back to news listing

Next article

Ofsted report: quality in early years increasing but concerns around delivery of funded places

Ofsted today has published its annual report 2015/6. Sir Michael Wilshaw focused on capacity challenges across the education system as he launched his fifth and final Annual Report as Ofsted’s outgoing Chief Inspector.

The report highlights that the proportion of good and outstanding nurseries, pre-schools and childminders has risen and now stands at 91%.  The proportion of good and outstanding nurseries is now almost the same in the most deprived areas of the country as in the least deprived. However, it also points to the need for government, local authorities and providers to plan further to ensure that enough funded places are available.

Liz Bayram, PACEY’s Chief Executive, comments:

“It is a major achievement for 91% of providers to be graded as good or outstanding; a testament to the hard work and dedication of childminders, nurseries and pre-schools everywhere. Looking ahead, the key question is how this can be sustained when costs are rising for providers whilst the quality training and support they receive is reducing. Government needs to work with the sector now to focus on sustaining the quality and quantity of childcare places available to children and families. Central to this is getting funding right for funded early education places before we roll out the 30 hours offer.”

Key findings from the report include:

Inspection outcomes

  • Ninety-one per cent of all active early years providers are now good or outstanding, an increase of 22 percentage points since 2010

  • The proportion of providers judged good or outstanding is higher in private and voluntary nurseries or pre-schools (95%) than it is for childminders (89%)

  • In every local authority in England this year, at least four out of five childcare places will be in early years registered provision that is judged good or outstanding.

  • Fifteen per cent of early years registered providers were found to be outstanding at their most recent inspection. Outstanding providers are meticulous in monitoring children’s learning and development and identifying next steps.

Number of early years places

  • The number of early years places in the sector has not increased in line with the growth in the child population in recent years. There are now almost 240,000 more children aged four years or under in England than in 2009. In the registered sector, the number of places available has declined by over 50,000 places since 2009

  • The government, local authorities and providers must plan further to ensure that enough funded places are available. They need to make sure the children of parents who cannot afford to supplement the funding do not miss out. This extended provision of 30 hours has the potential to further narrow the gap for disadvantaged children, providing there is capacity in the system to deliver it.

Development outcomes

  • In 2016, the proportion of children achieving a good level of development was 69.3%, an increase of three percentage points since 2015. The proportion of children achieving a good level of development has risen by 17.6 percentage points since 2013. There has been an improvement in all regions of the country, with the North East showing the largest improvement

  • Girls continue to outpace boys at this age, though the gap between the sexes is narrowing

  • The proportion of pupils with a statement of special educational needs (or an education, health and care plan) who attained a good level of development increased by one percentage point to 4%.


  • In the great majority of early years settings, behaviour is very good. However, where behaviour is reported as requiring improvement, this is often linked to a lack of stimulating activities or low levels of challenge in the activities available

  • Every year, a small number of young children are permanently excluded from schools for serious misbehaviour. Last year, 30 were excluded from their schools in this way. The number of younger children who were given fixed period exclusions each year has been increasing steadily. While proportions of children remain very small – less than 1% – this is an increase of over 1,000 exclusions a year compared with five years ago

  • In the coming year, Ofsted will be collecting more evidence about behaviour, including around listening skills, preparedness for learning and relationships in early years and about some of these alternative provisions.

Narrowing the gap

  • The difference between children eligible for free school meals and their peers is clearly diminishing. It is now 3.5 percentage points narrower than in 2007. The largest reduction has occurred in the past year

  • However, two-year-olds are more likely to be in a funded childcare place in inadequate provision than three- and four-year-olds (4% compared with 2%).

Early years workforce

  • There is some evidence that the qualification level of the early years workforce has improved. Ofsted inspection evidence shows that around 75% of staff in nurseries and pre-schools now have relevant qualifications at level 3 or above. In addition, the proportion of private and voluntary providers employing at least one member of staff with early years practitioner or qualified teacher status has risen from 35% in 2011 to 48% in 2016

  • From April 2015, Ofsted’s initial teacher education (ITE) inspections have included inspections of EYTS programmes. Ten early years ITE providers have been inspected so far, of which eight are currently good and two require improvement

  • Within the sector, there are wider concerns. Providers report that they are finding it difficult to recruit and retain trainees because of a lack of understanding about EYTS and how it is perceived in relation to qualified teacher status by potential applicants, trainees and employers. As a consequence, early years ITE programmes are not always viable. Development of the early years workforce is a key government priority and a new early years workforce strategy is due to be introduced in 2017.

Transition to school

  • There is no formally agreed definition of ‘school readiness’. However, where schools and feeder settings had developed partnerships to support transition, they were more likely to have developed a mutual understanding of what was expected in children’s readiness.