Chief inspector Chris Woodhead has revealed that safety and security standards will be the primary concern of the Early Years Directorate - dubbed OFTOT - a new division of the Office for Standards in Education that will inspect early-years from September. It replaces the two separate inspections carried out by local authorities and OFSTED.
But Mr Woodhead has said he expects the 90,000 childminders and 25,000 playgroups and nurseries in England to provide an "intellectual challenge" and "stimulation" to children in their care.
The news will lay to rest fears, raised by the House of Commons education sub-committee early-years inquiry this week, that the nspection regime would make new and unreasonable demands, particularly on childminders.
Mr Woodhead, giving evidence to the committee, said: "The security of the child is paramount but intellectual stimulation and using the time for the development of the child is also important."
Childminders will be expected to talk, read and tell stories to children and use their home environment to introduce them to numbers and colours.
Mr Woodhead also said that in the drive for early-years qualifications, the Government should be wary of scaring off gifted amateurs. "If we put in place a series of hoops that people feel they cannot jump through we risk losing people doing a very good job."
Draft national standards for early-years education will be published in July.