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Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector

I am delighted to launch this new website that presents evidence from the three-year cycle of inspections of registered early years and childcare provision.

Leading to excellence is the third and final review of these inspections. It completes the picture of how well early years and childcare settings are supporting children and follows Safe and sound and Getting on well. The previous two reports focused on what best practice looks like in helping children to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy themselves and achieve, and make a positive contribution. Leading to excellence focuses on how providers organise, lead and manage their settings to promote positive outcomes for children.

I am pleased to say that overall providers are doing well and they are getting better. I am particularly impressed with the level of improvement in meeting the national standards. In 2005 we reported that less than 80% of registered early years and childcare settings met the national standards. Now almost all do.

In the previous inspection cycle from 2003 to 2005 we had to set actions for 22% of providers to meet the national standards. That figure is now just 3%. This improvement following inspection represents a determination by providers to do better for the children they serve, often supported by local authorities and professional associations.

Taking the figures for the three years, fewer settings were judged inadequate. Though only a small proportion are inadequate, that masks the fact that there are almost twice as many inadequate childminders this year compared to last year. Providers judged to be inadequate have significant improvements to make if they are to meet the demands of the Early Years Foundation Stage and provide the high quality education and care children deserve.

Most settings provide a level of childcare well above the minimum required: 60% are good or outstanding and provide very effective support for children's welfare, learning and development. Of the outcomes for children that we inspect, providers continue to be best at helping children to enjoy themselves and achieve well in what they do, as they were in 2005.

Also, many providers continue to improve. In particular we have seen a rise in the levels of good and outstanding day-care provision inspected each year over the last three years. However, the proportion of childminders judged to provide good childcare has fallen and I want to see this trend reversed.

The range in quality of provision across the country is too wide. I am concerned that quality is generally poorer in areas where children and families are already experiencing high levels of deprivation. Local authorities should strive to support improvement in settings in these areas.

Clearly there is more to do before we see our early years and childcare provision becoming the best in the world, something I am determined to see for all our children and families. I want to see more good and less satisfactory provision. Improvement requires provision to be well organised, well led and well managed. This is an area of challenge for many providers if they are to promote positive outcomes for children.

Leading to excellence points the way. I hope providers, local authorities and others will use it to help them improve so that we will see excellent leadership and management in many more settings during the inspection cycle starting in September.

Signature of Christine Gilbert

Christine Gilbert
August 2008

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