23 June 2017

New guidelines for childcare

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In September, the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) assumed responsibility for national standards governing childcare in this country.
Up until this point, each local authority had it's own standards where childcare was concerned but there were wide differences between councils and thus a regulatory body was deemed necessary to get everybody singing from the same song sheet as it were. Some councils banned childminders from smoking whilst in charge of children whilst others required a higher ratio of carers to children than in other areas.

In addition to its current role of inspecting schools throughout England, OFSTED will take on the responsibility for registration and inspection of nurseries, playgroups, pre-schools, creches, out-of-school care and child-minders for children up to the age of eight. In addition, OFSTED will have the authority to close down facilities if inspections are not satisfactory.

Previously, childminders were vetted by local inspectors from the Registration and Inspection Unit of the local council. However this had to change if new regulations were to be brought in, hence the involvement of OFSTED. Approximately 1,600 former council employees have transferred to OFSTED and will now be monitoring 14 national standards rather than the previous local guidelines. Maggie Smith, the new Director of Early Years welcomed the change and said: "In many ways, providers of daycare services may not notice a significant change as OFSTED takes over this role from local authorities but one of the key benefits of the new national regulation is that it will ensure consistancy of standards throughout England."

However, the new standards caused heated debate earlier in the year as the Government suggested than although smoking and smacking are prohibited in nurseries, playgroups and out of school clubs it was unreasonable to inflict the same ban on childminders who were in effect in loco parentis. The Government decided that childminders should be able to make that decision for themselves. They also claimed that the restriction would be difficult to enforce. Amongst those who contested this proposal were the childminders themselves, the Registration and Inspection Units and the National Childminding Association (NCMA) citing the fact that seatbelt legislation had originally been resisted for the same reasons. In the end it was determined that smacking and smoking would not be allowed without written permission from a parent.

In East Sussex our standards for childminders are already higher than the national average. Whilst the national average ratio of adult to child under two is 1 to 3, in East Sussex there must be 1 carer for every two children under the age of two.

For more information on the new national standards, visit the OFSTED web-site at www.ofsted.gov.uk or phone for a leaflet explaining the changes, from Childcare Link on 0800 96 0296


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