UK & World News
'Kids At Risk' By Overdue Nursery Inspections
Ofsted has been accused of putting pre-school children at risk and of not being fit for purpose over a backlog of nursery and childminder inspections.
Sky News has discovered that a quarter of early years providers have not been inspected for at least four years despite Ofsted insisting all inspections must take place within that time.
Jill Rutter, head of policy and research at the Family and Childcare Trust, accused the regulator of putting children in danger.
"Ultimately it does increase risks to children," she said.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said Ofsted has questions to answer.
"If you've got providers out there that haven't been inspected for years and years and years that's not a healthy position and that's not, if you like, fit for purpose," he said.
The delays are the result of Ofsted quietly resetting the clock on inspections on September 1, 2012.
In a statement Ofsted said all early years providers "must be inspected at least once within 47 months".
It went on to say: "The current cycle began on 1st September 2012 and will end on 31 July 2016."
Under the Freedom of Information Act Sky News obtained data on inspections of settings on England's Early Years Register as of 31 March 2014.
It shows 19,204 nurseries and childminders out of a total of 77,509 have been waiting for four years or more for an inspection.
Of those, 342 have never been inspected by Ofsted at all, while 3,655 were judged to be only "satisfactory" at their last inspection - a grading now re-classified as "requiring improvement".
The data also shows 7,280 registered providers have not been inspected for at least five years and 611 have been waiting for six years or more.
Nurseries and childminders used to be inspected every two years, but in 2005 the interval was extended to every three to four years to save £4.7m a year.
At the time a government memorandum stated: "It could be argued that the proposed reduced inspection frequency for childcare providers might lead to very young children being at greater risk."