Inspectors of early years settings such as nurseries and childminding services have been told to sharpen up their act by the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Sir Michael Wilshaw.
In a letter to inspectors in advance of Thursday’s annual report into early years services, he says too many just describe what is on offer to children, rather than how well the children are learning or making progress. “Children’s development is at its greatest between birth and five,” the boss of the education standards watchdog Ofsted writes. “Therefore the activities they do are absolutely crucial in giving them a good start in life.”
He adds: “This is especially important for children from poor backgrounds. Children as young as two can learn and be taught a range of things.”
In particular, he wants the inspectors to report on whether children recognise and sing nursery rhymes and familiar songs, take in new vocabulary, enjoy listening to stories and looking at picture books, and start to dress and undress themselves.
Thursday’s report is expected to say that too much provision for the under-fives in disadvantaged communities is not good enough.
Sir Michael tells the inspectors they should observe how well adults help children to learn, teach them to socialise, and teach the early stages of maths and reading. “I want to know how well settings help children to catch up when they enter with skills that are lower than those typical for their age,” he adds.
“I expect reports to be clear about the extent to which a provider prepares children for school. They should also support and challenge providers to improve their settings. Parents must have concise and clear information to help them make the right decisions about their children’s education and care.”