Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 01:44 GMT 02:44 UK
Union opposes Ofsted childcare inspections
Inspectors will check the standards of education and welfare
A teachers' union has challenged the use of school inspectors in regulating playgroups and childcare, arguing that the schools' watchdog lacks an understanding of the needs of young children.
The Professional Association of Teachers has written to the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, contesting the proposals for the Office for Standards in Education to inspect pre-school centres.
The union is concerned that Ofsted inspection teams have insufficient awareness of child protection issues and will not be attuned to the needs of the under-fives.
"Can you allay very genuine and deeply held fears that Ofsted is not competent in child protection?" writes Kay Driver, the union's general secretary.
The general secretary says in her letter that members in the past have complained about how little inspectors know about young children, "such as the inspector who asked to hear the four-year-olds read, and the inspector who was looking for records of homework".
'Contradicts task force'
The union also says that the government's announcement of the extended role of Ofsted, made on Monday, contradicts the recommendations of its own task force, which published its review of Early Education and Day Care earlier this year.
"Qualified nursery staff employed in social services and voluntary bodies have been phoning to check why the task force's concern over child protection has been ignored," writes Ms Driver.
The Education Minister, Margaret Hodge, said that the use of Ofsted in regulating pre-school childcare would remove the "confusion, the duplication and the unfairness" of the present system, in which different organisations were responsible for inspecting different aspects of childcare.