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Ofsted publishes new inspection handbook for childminding agencies

Ofsted has published a new inspection framework for childminder agencies in draft form. The Childminding agencies: inspection handbook guidance sets out how childminder agencies will be inspected, and also provides guidance for inspectors on judging the effectiveness of a childminder agency.

The handbook explains that childminder agencies will be judged as ‘effective’ or ‘ineffective’ and sets out the three areas that agencies will be assessed against: the effectiveness of the leadership and management of the agency; the quality of the agency’s services; and the impact of the agency’s services on the quality of the education and care provided by its childminders.

Inspectors will be expected to make a judgement on how well agencies assess and identify the quality of childminders registered with it, improve and/or maintain the effectiveness of childminding provision, and ensure that childminding services contribute to the children’s well‑being and progress.

Inspectors will only be expected to visit 10% of the childminders on its books and the handbook makes clear these are “not an early years inspection”, but rather to “assess the effectiveness of the agency’s arrangements for assuring the quality of its childminders and the accuracy of the agency’s evaluation of quality”.

As of November 2015, only seven childminder agencies were registered with Ofsted.

Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive, commenting on the release of the handbook said:

"PACEY has always been concerned that the registration and regulatory requirements set for childminder agencies will not provide the reassurance parents need to know their child is in a quality setting. This handbook does nothing to allay our concerns. Inspecting only 10 per cent of childminders on an agency’s books and using different grading terminology to that widely recognised by parents and other providers will only further add to the confusion agencies have already created.

"Parents want to know what Ofsted believes is the quality of care offered by the person who will be looking after their child. Local authorities and other providers use good and outstanding judgements to inform whom they work with to deliver services including the free entitlement. An ‘ineffective / effective’ judgement will mean very little to the people who matter most to childminders. It’s a missed opportunity not to build on the progress on parity that the Common Inspection Framework has achieved.

"Whilst the support and training offered via agencies may well benefit childminders who wish to purchase these services, the continued focus on an agency’s regulatory role remains a major disincentive to most childminders joining an agency. We firmly believe that individual Ofsted registration and inspection of childminders is the best way to reassure parents and support childminding sustainability. Given how critical childminding will be to the delivery of 30 hours funded entitlement, PACEY will continue to make clear that keeping childminding in the same regulation and inspection framework as all other early years settings is vital for success."

We will shortly be updating our guidance for members on childminder agencies but in the meantime you can access our full response to childminder agencies here.

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