Ofsted is to manage its own early years inspections directly, it was announced today.
The watchdog will be bringing its early years inspections and regulatory work in-house from April 2017, when existing contracts run out.
At the moment, two external companies, Tribal and Prospects, undertake early years inspections on Ofsted’s behalf. Their contracts will run until 31 March 2017.
About 300 inspectors will be affected by the change.
Ofsted has said that bringing early years inspections under direct management means that the inspectorate will have full control over the selection, training and management of inspectors, as well as over the quality of inspections.
Nick Jackson, director of corporate services at Ofsted, said: “We have decided that early years inspection should be brought in line with schools and further education and skills, with Ofsted directly managing all inspections.”
Last September, Ofsted switched to employing all its school inspectors directly. It had previously been using about 3,000 inspectors employed by outside contractors.
Unison, the union representing early years inspectors, has welcomed the latest announcement. Dave Prentis, the union’s general secretary, said that bringing the inspections in-house “will improve the consistency, quality and accountability of the early years inspection".
He added: “The decision sends an important message that early years inspections are just as important as the inspection of schools for older pupils.”
This was echoed by Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers. “Obviously, there’s a massive challenge at the moment, with the quality and consistency of inspections,” he said. “But this way Ofsted can keep a hold on that, with a directly managed workforce.
“As long as we get high-quality, consistent inspections, this should be a step forwards.”