Private and voluntary nursery schools and playgroups come under the Nursery Education and Grant-maintained Schools Act of 1996, and of those that have so far been inspected by OFSTED most will be inspected again within one to two years. For this category, the most favourable outcome is reinspection within two to four years, and it is of course not yet clear whether any "provider" will be left in peace for the full four years. These groups, unlike maintained schools, are also inspected annually under the 1989 Children Act.
For the maintained sector, the recommended adult-child ratios is 2:26 (or 2:20 where the headteacher also teaches). For the rest, it has to be at least 1:8, and the practice in many parts of the country is 1:6 or even higher.
These disparities are highlighted in the recent Government consultation paper on the regulation of early education and day care. It is to be hoped they will be resolved.
Professor R Mutter Mill Lane Lewes, Sussex