Teething problems continue to dog the Early
Years Directorate of school inspection body Ofsted, three months
after it took over responsibility for regulating providers of child
care services from local authority regulation and inspection
Child care inspectors, nurseries and
childminders have reported difficulties adapting to the system,
although many say it will lead to more consistent and
higher-quality standards of child care in the future.
For child care 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 ongoing access. “The system could not cope
with everyone logging on at the same time for training,” said one
child care inspector.
Inspectors have also felt frustrated at not
having all the tools and knowledge to carry out their new role
efficiently, and feel “de-skilled” 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.
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 at home during that period.
National Child Minding Association chief
executive Gillian Haynes described the practice as “unworkable”:
“It puts an unreasonable burden on people. If the sun shines, you
go out. You can’t keep children cooped up for four weeks.”
Ofsted’s spokesperson said the body was
looking at the problem. “We have to balance people over-preparing
for inspections with the need to give some notice,” she said.