The inspectorate said it will take responsibility for early years inspections from April next year, when existing contracts with third-party providers come to an end. Two companies, Tribal and Prospects, have inspected early years settings on Ofsted’s behalf since 2010.
Ofsted said the move will give it full control over the selection, training and management of inspections, and oversight of the quality of inspections. There has been growing pressure from the sector in recent years for Ofsted to take early years inspections back in-house, amid concerns about the consistency and quality of inspections by third-party providers.
Last September, Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw told MPs he was "committed" to bringing early years inspections in-house. Nick Jackson, Ofsted’s director of corporate services, said that with the contracts coming to an end, it is the “right time” to consider next steps.
“We have decided that early years inspection should be brought in line with schools and further education and skills, with Ofsted directly managing all inspections," he said.
“With our experience of bringing schools and further education inspections under our control, we are confident that we can manage this transition smoothly.”
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said he welcomes the news.
“This decision will not only bring the early years in line with schools and further education, but also help ensure that future early years inspections are of a consistently high standard," he said.
“Having long called for this change, it is very positive to see Ofsted engaging with early years providers, and taking their views and concerns on board. We hope that this approach will continue going forward.”
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said the news shows that the sector’s voice “is being heard". She added that Ofsted must assure early years providers that inspections will be of high quality.
“Going forward, early years providers want to be assured of consistent, robust inspection and the recruitment, training and oversight of inspectors is crucial to this," she said.
"A vital component of competency for inspectors is having relevant early years leadership experience.”
Liz Bayram, chief executive of Pacey, said her charity is “delighted” by the announcement.
"This measure will go a long way to help restore confidence in the inspection process among childcare professionals," she said.
"Pacey will work hard to support Ofsted in how it implements this decision over the next two years, given it is something our members have wanted for a long time.”
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of 4Children, said bringing early years inspections in-house will reassure parents and providers.
“High-quality early years care and education can make or break a child’s future prospects," she said.
"Those who enter the school system at a disadvantage face a lifetime of playing catch up. Today’s news that inspections of early years providers will be delivered directly by Ofsted, bringing them into line with schools, should offer welcome reassurance to parents and providers."