Leading to excellence is based on evidence from 90,000 inspections of 84,000 early years and childcare settings during the three years to March 2008. Additional evidence comes from a survey of leadership and management in full day-care settings, a study of settings that were part of quality assurance schemes, feedback from conferences for outstanding providers, and our responses to 24,000 complaints. Leading to excellence shows how well the whole sector is doing to promote positive outcomes for children. It focuses on how early years and childcare settings are organised, led and managed so children make good progress.
The report is in two parts: Part 1 charts changes in the quality of provision and Part 2 gives examples of best practice in the way settings are organised, led and managed to promote the best possible outcomes for children.
The report identifies many positive features and highlights much good practice. However, it also identifies much practice that is only satisfactory and some that is inadequate where improvement is needed.
Almost all settings (97%) provide at least satisfactory childcare, and approaching two thirds are good or outstanding. Of the small minority of settings (3%) judged inadequate most improve quickly although a few have not yet done so. We have set stringent actions for these settings and continue to monitor them closely.
The quality of childcare varies across the sector. The proportion of good or outstanding provision ranges from 47% in out-of-school schemes to 65% in full day-care settings. Well-established provision is generally of a higher quality than recently registered provision. There is also variation across the country with provision in socio-economically deprived areas generally below that elsewhere. There are, though, deprived areas that buck this general trend.
The proportion of day-care group providers inspected with good or outstanding childcare has risen from 53% in 2005–06 to 64% in 2007–08, though the proportion of childminders judged good or outstanding has fallen from 65% to 59%.
We received some 24,000 complaints over the three-year period, which represents a very small proportion in relation to the childcare places available: five complaints each year for each 1,000 places.
The quality of organisation, leadership and management is key to ensuring provision supports positive outcomes for children. Part 2 of the report shows how the best settings place children at the heart of all that happens, and how the best providers are continually working to improve their already excellent practice.
Almost all registered early years and childcare settings (97%) are satisfactory or better in the way they are organised to promote positive outcomes for children. Over half the settings (54%) are good or outstanding.
In the best settings support for children to achieve the best outcomes is outstanding: children are at the heart of all that happens, adults have a robust approach to keeping children safe, stimulating environments enable children to thrive with support from knowledgeable adults who keep close watch over their development and monitor progress, and adults continually strive to improve on already outstanding practice.
For an explanation of terms used in Leading to excellence, please see Definitions.
Continue to Part 1: Where are we now? - Key findings
 There were 101,000 registered early years and childcare settings on 31 March 2008, providing over 1.5 million places for children aged under eight years. Of these, 65,000 were registered for the whole three-year period covered by the report; we inspected all of these settings. A further 36,000 were new providers; we inspected 19,000 of these. In total we completed 90,000 inspections including reinspections of inadequate provision. (Figures are rounded.)
 Every Child Matters identified five outcomes to which all children are entitled. The outcomes are for every child to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being. From April 2005 to August 2008 Ofsted inspections included judgements on the first four of these, plus a judgement on how well settings were organised to promote outcomes effectively for children.