Complained-about childcare settings face greater downgrade risk, data shows

By Derren Hayes

| 03 December 2013

Early years settings that receive a complaint are nearly twice as likely to have their Ofsted rating downgraded as those that do not, new analysis suggests.

Nearly one in three early years settings inspected as a result of a complaint resulted in a downgrade.

Responses to a recent Freedom of Information request from the Pre-school Learning Alliance has revealed that 29 per cent of complaint-driven early years inspections conducted by the regulator between September 2012 and June 2013 have resulted in a judgment downgrade. Of the 4,758 complaint-driven inspections, 1,383 were downgraded.

By comparison, just 887 (16 per cent) of all the 5,506 inspections carried out by Ofsted over the same period ended in a downgrade.

The data also shows that settings that are inspected as a result of a complaint are 22 per cent more likely to be downgraded to either ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ than other inspected nurseries or childcare providers.

The findings follow publication in October of Ofsted figures showing a six-fold rise in the number of complaint-driven inspections of early years providers.

The organisation is calling for the regulator to “reassess” how it conducts such investigations.

Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch said: “These figures clearly show that providers are much more likely to be downgraded if they have undergone an inspection that has been prompted by a complaint or concern. This is despite the fact that Ofsted guidance states that a complaint-driven inspection should be a full inspection of all the matters set out in the evaluation schedule and not an investigation of the concern itself.

“We, of course, recognise that there will be instances where the issue that prompted the complaint does, in fact, warrant a judgment downgrade, but the significant discrepancies in the inspection data suggest there is a bigger concern here.
“We are therefore calling on Ofsted to fundamentally rethink the way in which complaint-driven inspections are conducted. Guidance on this process should be clear and unambiguous, and there needs to be much more rigorous oversight to ensure that inspectors are adhering to Ofsted’s policies and procedures. No provider should have to go into an inspection feeling that the odds are stacked again them.”

“We do not dispute the fact that there are some providers who have undergone a complaint-driven inspection and found it to be fair, proper and thorough, as should be expected – but ‘some’ is simply not good enough.”

In September, the Alliance raised concerns about Ofsted’s ability to manage inspections data after its questions about complaint-driven inspections went unanswered.

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