Ofsted’s response to its own consultation on the proposed inspection framework for childminder agencies, published today, reveals that 61 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with plans to require inspectors to make an “overall effectiveness” judgment of agencies.
Only 26 per cent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the proposal, which gives individual childminders the choice of registering with Ofsted from September, rather than compelling them to do so. Those who choose not to will continue to be inspected as individuals by Ofsted.
The findings are in contrast to the widespread concerns raised throughout the sector when the plan was revealed in January.
Ofsted will only be legally bound to judge the quality of agencies as a whole, assessing the quality of services it provides to both childminders and parents and rating each one on the same four-point scale it uses when inspecting other types of childcare providers.
Nick Hudson, Ofsted’s early years director, explained Ofsted’s approach.
He said: “Childminder agencies represent a new concept in the early years landscape and we plan to judge them on a similar basis as other providers when they come into being later this year.
“We will only inspect agencies, not the individual childminders who they serve. Our inspectors will therefore be keen to see what agencies are doing to improve the quality of the childminders they represent.
“What matters to Ofsted is quality. Like nurseries and other forms of early years provision, agencies will not get any notice of an inspection.
“Our measures will help to give reassurance to parents about the childminder who looks after their loved ones, and to childminders who may be considering joining an agency.”
More than 600 parents and childminders responded to the consultation, which took place between January and March.
Last week, early years organisations warned that a dramatic fall in the number of childminders over the last six months could be linked to the creation of childminder agencies.
Childminder agencies, a provision of the Children and Families Act 2014, were set up by the Department for Education last summer to test new arrangements for supporting childminders with business and training advice, while making it easier for parents to access home-based childcare.