News story

Ofsted calls for swift improvement in pre-schools and nurseries

Toughening up of early years inspections announced by Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.


From 4 November 2013, a judgement of ‘requires improvement’ will replace the current ‘satisfactory’ judgement for all early years providers – as it has already for schools and colleges.

Publishing the outcomes of the Good early years provision for all consultation, which sets out Ofsted’s proposals for early years providers, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, announced that ‘good’ will be the minimum standard expected.

From November, pre-schools and nurseries requiring improvement will have a maximum of two years to get to ‘good’ - otherwise they face the prospect of being judged ‘inadequate’.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said:

The early years are crucial. That’s why only a good standard of education and care is acceptable for our youngest children.

Pre-schools and nurseries need to give children a solid foundation. Two years is a long time in a child’s life and it’s long enough for a setting to improve. I agree with the parents who told us in our consultation that four years is too long to wait for a nursery to reach the good standard that every child deserves.

As a nation, we spend around £5 billion a year on funded early education but too many pre-schools and nurseries across the country are not yet good, particularly in the most deprived areas. That’s why Ofsted is determined to introduce greater challenge into the early years sector.

Early years provision is only as good as the quality of interaction between adults and children. The best providers understand the importance of teaching children through their play while also giving them structures and routines which bring order and security into their lives. It is vital that very young children make good progress so that they succeed in later years. I am clear that we ignore early education and care at our peril.

As a result of comments from the consultation, changes to the new inspection framework will include the following.

For all early years providers:

  • the satisfactory judgement will be replaced by ‘requires improvement’
  • ‘inadequate’ settings are likely to be re-inspected after 6 months
  • if an ‘inadequate’ setting fails to improve sufficiently and is found ‘inadequate’ again after re-inspection, Ofsted may take steps to cancel that setting’s registration

For pre-schools and nurseries:

  • there will be re-inspection within a year for those which ‘require improvement’ with the expectation that the setting will get to ‘good’ within two years
  • those that fail to improve after two years are likely to be judged ‘inadequate’

Ofsted will take into account the potential impact of an inadequate decision on a case by case basis when the first non-domestic providers judged to ‘require improvement’ approach the end of the 24 month period. Any decisions made will be taken in the best interests of the children and parents using the services inspected.

The formal consultation Good early years provision for all ran between April and May. Ofsted consulted on five key questions and received more than 2,500 responses from professionals, parents and carers. Their comments underpin these new inspection arrangements. The changes are intended to strengthen the impact of Ofsted’s inspection and improvement activity through more frequent monitoring of early years provision in settings which are not yet good.

The new inspection framework will be published in full in September with the first inspections under the new system beginning in November.

Notes to editors

  1. The Good early years provision for all consultation outcome report is available on GOV.UK. Please note: the consultation did not include childminders as the government is considering new initiatives in this area, including the proposal for childminder agencies to be established.

  2. Good early years provision for all consulted on a proposed time of four years for non-domestic settings, such as nurseries, that require improvement to get to ‘good’. Comments made by respondents in the consultation said that four years is too long.

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Published 2 August 2013