Ofsted has published its Annual Report 2017/18, which includes early years, as well as schools, further education, and skills and social care.
The section on early years makes the following key points:
- Inspection outcomes for providers on the Early Years Register (EYR) remain strong. More than nine out of 10 (95%) were good or outstanding at their most recent inspection.
- The total number of early years and childcare providers registered with us continues to decrease over time. This can be attributed to a large decrease in childminders and smaller decreases in the number of nurseries and pre-schools. However, the number of places in early years providers has remained relatively stable, at around 1.3 million.
- Although childminder provider numbers on the Early Years Register have decreased by 30%, the number of places offered has only decreased by 12%. This means that individual childminders are offering a higher number of places on average. The average number of places offered by childminders on the EYR was 6.4 in August 2018.
- The report speculates that the following inspection and registration policies may have contributed to the rise in the quality of the early years sector over time.
- Changes to the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (EYFS) in 2012 mean that childminders have to complete training before Ofsted can register them. This may have reduced the overall numbers of joiners over time, while improving the quality of those joining.
- Since November 2013, Ofsted has re-inspected all nurseries and pre-schools judged as requires improvement within 12 months. This means that these providers have been more frequently monitored and so have had the opportunity to improve sooner.
- Similarly, from August 2016, Ofsted has prioritised inspecting childminders that had previously been judged requires improvement.
- Nurseries and pre-schools operating as part of a group under a single registration are more likely to be judged outstanding than those operating alone, particularly if they are part of a group of 21 or more settings, as opposed to smaller nursery chains. The quality of provision is also linked to other factors, such as levels of local area deprivation.
PACEY’s Chief Executive, Liz Bayram, attended the report launch, and commented:
"We've heard much to be welcomed in the Annual report. The draft EIF's focus on supporting early literacy and numeracy is core to a quality early education, so long as it's part of a well-rounded curriculum. We're celebrating that 95% of providers are good or outstanding but PACEY is concerned we're at a crossroads.
There is increasing evidence that the number of well qualified practitioners is starting to decline, particular newer practitioners who can't afford to pay for qualifications and see no benefit in doing so, such as increased earnings and career progression.
"Quality early education is dependent on a well qualified workforce. Without improved funding for government funded early education and a workforce strategy that supports career progression, future generations of children will not benefit from the high quality of education and care our under fives currently enjoy."