Memorandum submitted by a Registered Childminder
I believe Ofsted is overseen by your Select
I have recently become a registered childminder
and I have been rather dismayed, to put it mildly, by the workings
of Ofsted in regard to childminders. Rather than go through it
all in my letter I have attached a summary of the difficulties
I have had. I hope this doesn't seem like just a moan. I am seriously
concerned that Ofsted isn't efficient, it uses targets as an excuse
for not getting on with things and it has a mind boggling culture
of buck-passing. Anything I have ever raised with Ofsted was always
someone else's fault and it was never possible to speak to that
None of these problems is desperately serious
on its own, and had they all happened to different people at different
times I would not be quite so concerned. However, they all happened
to me, and within a short space of time. Also, some of the problems
I encountered, such as the need to ring a separate phone number
to get a receipt, are embedded in their systems and affect everyone
who has to deal with Ofsted.
Ofsted is funded from public money and ought
to work to the benefit of the public. I got the impression that
it is self-serving and insular, as well as very far from the modern
world. They lay down the most tortuous rules for other people,
often with no more basis than someone's "good" idea,
yet are unable to run their own organisation properly. They are
also possibly breaking the law on data protection.
I raised these problems with my MP who wrote
to Ofsted and received a reply from Christine Gilbert. The letter
did not address any of my concerns and contained a reference to
their target for registrations being 70% within 12 weeks which,
according to Ofsted, is wrong. My MP did not seem very interested,
although he said he would write again, so I thought it more appropriate
to contact you.
My very favourite thing that they did was to
send me a letter, not a personal one but one they send out frequently,
about a member of my household becoming 16, which was on two sheets
of paper (no concept of using the back of the first), the second
of which contained only a signature! This just about summed up
for me their level of competence.
Duplication of material
Ofsted and SureStart produce their own separate
versions of the National Guidelines, both of which are given to
childminders. The guidelines are anyway freely available on the
Internet and could be distributed this way to the majority of
I was sent a standard letter in which the second
page contained just a signature and which used only one side of
the paper. My seven-year-old could have put this right in 30 seconds.
I have been given some documents two or even
three times. There is no concept that printing and sending things
The National Standards have been updated twice
and instead of incorporating the changes into the Guidelines two
further documents are handed out. Presumably Ofsted printed thousands
of copies of the National Guidelines, so that rather than scrap
them they have to print additional documents. These days you don't
need to print thousands at a time. Everyone (except Ofsted, apparently)
knows this. They should print fewer at a time and be able to give
childminders just one complete document. And even if they can't
get the printed version right they could make the online version
just one document. It simply isn't reasonable to expect people
to search through three big booklets every time they want to know
My original problem with Ofsted was the absurdity
that I cannot be registered for my own garden because it isn't
fenced when I am to be trusted to take minded children anywhere
else, including next door's garden which is the same as mine!
Ofsted wouldn't tell me what document inspectors use to make their
judgement. I now believe there isn't one. In the National Guidelines
it says that gardens must be `secure'. This is so vague as to
Ofsted were never able to give any indication
of when my registration would be complete.
Ofsted cannot tell me how many registrations
they process a week or how many people work on processing them.
Ofsted failed to phone back twice when they
said they would.
Ofsted refused to tell me where I could get
a copy of the guidelines used by inspectors for assessing a person's
property. They asked for my registration number even though, because
of them, I wasn't yet registered and I had told them that! I later
discovered that such a document does not exist. According to the
inspector who inspected me the inspector uses the sketchy wording
in the National Guidelines and different inspectors can make very
Ofsted held on to my application for two weeks
before even sending off for social security checks. Five weeks
after the checks were returned they still had not processed my
On the invoice for their registration fee Ofsted
encourage you to pay by phone but once on the phone they tell
you that you can't have a receipt. You can get a receipt by phoning
a different number, which I did, and was sent a receipt for the
wrong amount! They also suggested I use my (private and confidential)
credit card bill as a receipt.
There is only one phone number you can phone.
The nice (sometimes) people who answer don't know anything and
can't put you through to speak to someone who does know. They
promise the relevant person will phone back but they never do.
I drew to Ofsted's attention the fact that my
son would become 16 during my application. They said that would
be dealt with separately and have no effect on my application.
When I phoned on 1 November they tried to blame the delay in processing
my application on my son having become 16! Apparently the inspector
dealing with my application had made the unusual and perverse
decision to wait for his CRB check. If that were not irritating
enough, the CRB check had come several weeks previously!
Ofsted guidelines instruct you not to sign the
permission section on the CRB form. Why do CRB process the form
without this? The data protection laws specify that informed consent
must be given.
Ofsted make a general statement that they will
carry out checks. It turns out they ask social services for personal
information and social services divulge this! There is no informed
consent so this is illegal.
The existence of the 12 week target for completion
of registrations appears to encourage Ofsted to take 12 weeks.
I was repeatedly told that as my registration had not yet taken
12 weeks I had nothing to complain about, in spite of the fact
that I applied at a very quiet time (according to my Ofsted inspector),
there were no extra checks or investigations to be made and our
CRB checks came back in less than two weeks so there was no hold
up there either. The target appears to be causing applications
to take longer than is necessary.
There is no alternative to Ofsted. I can't choose
to be registered by someone else. They're supposed to be specialists
at the job so they should be really good and really efficient
but they seem to shamble through the process as if it were the
first time they had done it.
They have a horrible 20 second (yes, I timed
it! I had plenty of opportunity...) bit of music for when they
put you on hold. It keeps stopping mid-bar and starting back at
the beginning. This might seem trivial but they habitually put
you on hold for long periods of time.
Christine Gilbert wrote to my MP, in response
to my complaints, that Ofsted's target for completion of registrations
is 70% within 12 weeks. I have checked with several people at
Ofsted and the real target is that registrations should be completed
within 12 weeks, with no mention of 70%.
I phoned Ofsted on 1 November and the Ofsted
phone-answerer kept blaming someone, apparently the person who
decided they must wait for my 16 year old's checks to be back,
in spite of this not being normal practice. I then spoke to the
team manager, who said she would review my case. I was not allowed
to speak to the inspector concerned.
I asked why I had been given wrong information
about my application possibly being delayed by my son's birthday
and she said it wasn't wrong! Then she said it would not normally
have affected an application and hinted there might be something
about my son that was holding it up when she didn't have access
to the information. This was untrue and was not an appropriate
comment for her to make. When I asked for the exact wording of
the 12 week target she said there is no mention in it of 70% anywhere
and that the wording in the Guide to Registration is the correct