A sample of 279 centres was inspected in 1998-99, the first year of partnership arrangements. With almost double the number of inspections in the previous first year, there was a large enough cross-section of local authority centres for a comparison to be made with other providers.
Overall, standards have been maintained and in some areas improved. These include programmes for knowledge and understanding of the world, provison for play, general planning and assessment, and aspects of quality assurance.
Kathy Fairweather, chief inspector for the under-fives, states: "The findings show good and very good provision in some centres across all the sectors inspected."
In all types of pre-school, improvements are needed in setting aims and policies, programmes for physical movement, planning and assessing children's development, staff review and overall monitoring of the provision on offer.
Centres win praise for their relationships with parents and among staff, who showed a depth of attention to children's emotional, personal and social development.