The schools watchdog will increase its focus on early years education over the next five years as part of the effort to help children impacted by the pandemic.
Ofsted has published its new strategy for the period between 2022 and 2027, which it says includes ‘a stronger focus on the inspectorate’s work in the early years and ensuring children get the best start in life.’
Ofsted’s recent reports on education recovery found that the pandemic had left many young children behind in their personal, social, emotional, and physical development.
The early years workforce has also been hit hard with thousands leaving the sector since the first lockdown in 2020, while those remaining are on very low wages.
Childcare providers have also been forced to close. At the start of the pandemic there were just over 75,000 registered providers, but that has since dipped below 70,000.
Ofsted’s new strategy commits it to using research and insight to support young children’s physical, social and wider development, increase training for the inspection workforce and promote a better understanding of early education and care in support of positive change.
‘Our strategy for the next five years takes account of the impact of the pandemic and raises still further our ambitions for children and learners. Ofsted’s mantra of ‘raising standards, improving lives’ has never been more important,’ said Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s chief inspector.
‘If the past two years have taught us anything then perhaps it is how resilient people can be, not least the youngest in our society whose start in life has been challenged in a way we’ve never seen before.
‘We recognise the outstanding work early years providers have done to help children recover what they missed, and this strategy aims to increase our support for a workforce that is so deeply devoted to what it does.
‘Whether it is through developing specialist training for our inspection workforce or through sharing our own insights, we will do everything in our power to help every child gain the best start in life.’
Ofsted will also accelerate the inspection cycle so that all schools are inspected by July 2025, and review social care inspections following the recommendations of the independent care review.
The watchdog will also develop and implement a new area SEND inspection framework that holds the right agencies to account for their role in the system, and will work with the Department for Education to increase powers to act when children are educated or cared for in unregistered settings.