Ofsted Annual Report 2010-2011 announces settings are improving year on year

What do the best settings look like?

The better providers, the report states, have a planned and systematic approach to learning and development, particularly in the area of CLL:

"In the best settings there is a concerted effort to plan more purposeful activity led by adults to develop children's language and communication, including their emerging skills for early reading and writing. This has a positive impact on their progress"

The report highlights how the most effective providers are supporting children's development against two areas of learning: PSED and CLL. It also draws attention to how the most effective providers are involving parents in their children's learning.

A provider who has been registered for four or more years is more than twice as likely to be judged outstanding as a provider registered for a year or less:

"This strongly suggests that time and experience are factors which enable childcare providers to develop outstanding quality"

Providers judged to be good or outstanding were particularly strong in their arrangements for working in partnership with others, eg agencies and local schools, and their effectivenesss in deploying their resources. These providers communicated effectively with parents to support their child's learning, involving them in initial assessment of their child, and regularly sharing information with them about their child's learning and development.

In 91% of the providers inspected where self-evaluation was judged outstanding, outcomes for children were also outstanding:

"In the best providers self-evaluation was based on effective assessment of children's needs and helped to target improvements that directly related to children's learning and progress. It was also used effectively to focus training and development activities for staff, which were often designed to improve children's learning and development"

The keys to good outcomes in PSED were the routines that practitioners established and maintained, and the high expectations that they had of children's behaviour. Where children made good progress in PSED and CLL, inspectors found that providers had a sound understanding of child development and referred to the EYFS practice guidance document to assess children's developmental level and track progress.

Actions

The three most common areas for actions following an inspection are the same as those in the previous two annual reports:

  • safeguarding and welfare
  • maintaining effective records and documentation
  • premises, environment and equipment

Areas for Improvement

There were clear common areas for improvement within settings judged to be satisfactory:

  • more effective observation and assessment of children's individual learning needs was required in order to plan for their next steps
  • the process of reflecting on and evaluating practice needed developing
  • the partnership with parents, in particular involving parents as active partners in their children's learning, needed improvement
  • opportunities were needed for children to develop an awareness and understanding of diversity and difference

Although the gap in performance between the most and the least deprived areas is still too wide, for both childminders and childcare on non-domestic premises, the gap has narrowed since last year, and the quality of provision in areas of high deprivation is improving.

Where speaking and listening skills were weak it was noted that providers were not specifically planning for this area of the curriculum, but supposing the learning would happen regardless. Practitioners also missed opportunities to develop children's thinking skills by encouraging them to explain their thoughts and allowing themĀ  time to do so:

"Too often...adults would immediately follow one question with another, or would answer their own question, limiting opportunities for childfren to express themselves and develop their own thoughts and ideas. Extending children's speaking skills helps them to develop as thinkers"

Drivers of Improvement

The report identifies two important drivers for improvement: the commitment of practitioners to continuing professional development and improvement; and external support and challenge for providers, often in the form of training and support from their local authority.

Childminders

Childcare on non-domestic premises continues to outperform childminders in terms of quality of provision. Local authorities suggested childminders were least likely to attend training as they found it conflicted with their working and home lives, or because the costs involved were too great.

Future inspections

The current inspection cycle will come to an end in 2012 and Ofsted will be developing a new inspection framework to reflect the government's revised EYFS. It is likely that the new inspection arrangements will continue to evaluate providers' effectiveness in working in partnership with families. Future challenges include closing the attainment gaps that "open up in the early years and persist as children start school and progres through their education. Inspection will give particular priority to judging how well provision is enabling early intervention to support children's identified needs."

To view the full report, click here