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Ofsted outlines focus on "substance of education" in annual report

By Rachel Lawler
baby's hands
Ofsted has called for a greater focus on “the substance of education” in its latest annual report.
Amanda Spielman, chief inspector at Ofsted, said: “In early years, focusing on the substance means recognising the huge importance of early literacy, language and numeracy.”
Improving quality
The report highlights improving quality in the early years sector, with 95% of providers in England judged as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ – up from 74% six years ago.
There has been a particular improvement in area of deprivation, with 91% of providers in the most deprived areas graded ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, compared to 96% in the least deprived areas.
This has fallen from a gap of eight percentage points in 2012.
The report also notes the improvement in performance in the phonics screening test with 82% of children now reaching the expected standard – up from 58% six years ago.
Toilet training
Spielman also highlighted a recent survey from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which said that 70% of staff had noticed more children arriving in Reception unable to use a toilet than they did in 2011.
Spielman said that early years practitioners should help identify children unable to use the toilet and work with parents to help them learn. However, she added: “Nurseries and childminders are not substitute parents.
“Rather than expecting educational institutions to pick up the job of parents, parents must step up here.” She said that “only in the most extreme cases” should parents be excused from helping children learn these skills.
Adequate investment
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "This year's Ofsted annual report is yet another testament to the dedication of practitioners, with a record 95% of providers now rated 'good or 'outstanding', up from 74% six years ago. 

"Crucially, the gap between settings is the most and least deprived areas is closing dramatically, with 91% of providers in the poorest regions of the country now providing good or outstanding care. Given that it is those children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds who have the most to gain from a quality early education, it's no exaggeration to say those childcare providers are setting them up for life. 

"As such, the report only serves to reinforce why it is so important for the government to adequately invest in the early years sector. We know that many of the challenges facing schools highlighted in the report – such as low literacy levels and poor physical health – need to be tackled sooner rather than later, and so it is vital that early years providers are given the support they need to ensure that all children, regardless of background, are given the best possible start in life. 

'Acknowledging the improving quality of childcare providers alone is not enough: if we recognise the importance of their role, then we should ensure they're supported to continue delivering it."
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