A report from Ofsted found that around 20,000 children are left with “inadequate” carers, whose failings include leaving babies to cry alone and letting children go hungry for hours. A further 125,000 are left in merely “satisfactory” conditions, which have scope for improvement.
Ofsted found that standards are declining across the board in an industry that has rapidly sprung up to look after children while their parents are at work.
The watchdog’s report checked 27,200 nurseries, creches and childminders – estimated between them to care for half a million children each day.
It found that 4% – which look after around 20,000 children – were inadequate. Inspectors said some places had too few toys and activities for those in their care.
In one, they found “children were not learning the difference between right and wrong or acceptable ways to behave because adults had a poor understanding of behaviour management”. They also found a nursery where “the adults did not have control over the toddlers”.
One in 12 workplace creches was judged inadequate, as well as one in 14 of the ‘extended schools’ which take an increasing number of children before and after school hours.
The number of nurseries and childminders considered better than satisfactory dropped from 61% to 57%, meaning that 125,000 children are in settings in which inspectors believe there is “scope for improvement”.
The drop in standards among childminders was even greater, with the number rated better than satisfactory dropping from 64% last year to 58%.
Ofsted concluded this was related to the “relatively large proportion of childminders who were newly registered and so had less experience”.
However, Ofsted’s chief inspector Christine Gilbert said there had been “many improvements”.
Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes added: “Only 4% of childcare settings were found to be inadequate – a very small proportion. Ofsted will work with providers to help them to improve, but will also take the necessary action to ensure the best results for children.”