Education standards watchdog Ofsted is failing to deliver accurate judgements on the standards of care delivered by nurseries and childminders, says a report to be published later today.
Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank concludes it is weak - particularly in its judgements on settings for younger aged children.
“It is clear that in the past Ofsted has not consistently reflected which settings are best for children's development, says the report.
The report found that centres graded as ”outstanding“ by Ofsted often received the lowest scores on scales used by teachers and care staff to check on the development of children and toddlers.
It warns that the shortcomings in the inspection regime are likely to be exacerbated if a proposal to cut local authority inspections and their duty to provide training for staff is given the go ahead.
”The first few years of a child's life are hugely important,“ said Imogen Parker, IPPR's researcher. ”By the age of three, a child from a professional family background can have double the vocabulary size that a child from the lowest socio-economic family background.
“There is no statistical relationship between Ofsted grades and quality of care infants and toddlers are receiving.”
The report raises the point that - if Ofsted gives a setting an outstanding classification - there is then no need or pressure on it to improve its performance. If its children have low scores for their development and readiness for school - this may not be tackled.
“Ofsted is not always the best judge of early years quality, particularly for the youngest children, and functions primarily as an inspector rather than a supporter of improvement,” the report adds.
It recommends ensuring better training for Ofsted inspectors in how to tackle early years settings - and ensure they understand the different types of settings in which children can be placed.
In addition, the report recommends the Government should strengthen its commitment to paternal leave - offering fathers a fully paid for “daddy month” - rather than insisting that, if they take a month's paternity leave, it comes off the mother's entitlement to maternity leave.
A spokesman for Ofsted said: “We have only just had sight of IPPR's report so it is difficult to comment on its findings. It is also hard to understand how they can provide an informed report without talking to us or observing an inspection.
”Our early years inspectors are fully trained experts and - whilst there is always room for improvement - we believe the public can have confidence in our inspection judgements.“Reuse content