Teething problems continue to dog the early years directorate of
school inspection body Ofsted, three months after it took over
responsibility for the regulation of providers of child care
services from local authority regulation and inspection units,
writes Lauren Revans.
Childcare inspectors, nurseries and childminders have all
reported difficulties adapting to the new system, although many
believe it will lead to more consistent and higher quality
standards of child care in the long-term.
For childcare inspectors, the main problems have been associated
with becoming home-based workers. Although Ofsted has provided them
with computers and start-up expenses to buy office furniture and
install new phone lines, many have reported feeling isolated.
Access to the computer system, both for training and for
day-to-day use, has also proved problematic. Ofsted itself has
accepted that the system was “not sufficient to meet the needs of
all the inspectors”, and that its remit was now being changed to
allow on-going access.
“The system could not cope with everyone logging on at the same
time for training,” said one child care inspector. “I think
there’s been far more use of the computers than anyone
Inspectors have also reported feeling “frustrated” at not having
all the tools and knowledge to carry out their new role
efficiently, and “deskilled” following the removal of their
development and support role – which has been retained by
For nurseries, the main issues are the loss of a local point of
contact following the replacement of 150 local authority
registration and inspection units with eight regional offices, and
the time it takes for a new registration application or a
registration variation application to be processed.
The National Day Nursery Association has warned that long time
delays could make it difficult for the government to reach its
targets on extra nursery places.
“Ofsted can’t deal with the amount of work that has landed
on its plate,” said NDNA information support officer Zarqa Naseer.
“It’s OK the government having all these strategies, but if
you can’t increase the number of places, what’s the
However a spokesperson for Ofsted insisted that if a
registration variation application had continuity of care
implications, an inspection “should happen within a few weeks”.
For childminders, there are serious concerns about
Ofsted’s inspection procedures. Under the new regime,
childminders are notified of a four-week period during which an
inspector could call. They are expected to let Ofsted know when
they will not be home during that period.
Gillian Haynes, chief executive of the National Child Minding
Association, described the practice as “unworkable”. “It puts an
unreasonable burden on people,” Haynes said. “If the sun shines,
you go out. You can’t keep children cooped up for four
Ofsted’s spokesperson said they were looking at the
problem. “We have to balance people over-preparing for inspections
with the need to give some notice,” she explained.