Commenting on the Ofsted early years annual report, published today, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said:
“We welcome the report’s recognition of the marked improvement in inspection outcomes in the early years sector over recent years.
“We hope that these figures will put to rest to the oft-cited – but baseless – claim that PVI provision is of low quality. The reality is that, despite limited financial and practical support, the vast majority of pre-schools, nurseries and childminders are consistently delivering high-quality care and education to the children and families that they support – and have demonstrated that they are doing so despite Ofsted’s ‘tougher’ approach to inspections.
“It is concerning that there remains such a significant gap between the outcomes of children from more poorer backgrounds and their peers. The first five years are pivotal to a child’s long-term learning and development, and so it is crucial that all children, regardless of background, are given the best possible start in life. Supporting children from more disadvantaged backgrounds often requires more one-to-one care and greater time liaising with external agencies, all of which has significant cost implications. As such, adequate investment into the early years sector remains absolutely vital to closing this gap – a fact that the Department for Education should reflect on as it carries out its upcoming review into funding.”
Commenting on Sir Michael Wilshaw’s call for more to be done to “incentivise schools to take more disadvantaged two-year-olds”, Neil said:
“It’s disappointing that, although the statistics show that the vast majority of PVI providers are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, Ofsted remains so focused on schools as providers of places for funded two-year-olds. Given that government research shows that very few schools currently offer funded places under the two-year-old free entitlement scheme, or plan to do so in the future, it would seem a far more sensible and logical approach to concentrate resources and investment on ensuring the sustainable delivery of such places through extensive network of experienced PVI providers.”