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Too many early years settings inspected as part of a focused inspection in Wiltshire are not yet good according the education watchdog.
Ofsted has published its findings after it found only half of eight early years settings it inspected in March were judged good or better.
As well as the visits to eight providers, inspectors conducted telephone surveys with a further 11 providers and held a focus group discussion with the local authority and its partners.
The inspection was prompted by the wide gap in learning and development outcomes for the poorest young children compared to their more affluent peers.
Only 36% of children eligible for free school meals achieved a good level of development in 2014, making Wiltshire the third worst local authority in the South West region. However, inspectors did find signs of improvement.
The local authority has provided some helpful training along with additional funding to enable early years settings to further develop their provision for funded two-years-olds. However, much still needs to improve.
It cannot be right that the poorest young children in Wiltshire are not able to master basic skills such as being able to hold a pencil, count to 20, listen to a story or express themselves.
Good learning and development is vital if children are to grasp the basics skills before they start primary school.
As a result we have provided a number of recommendations the local authority should consider, particularly to those childcare providers, on meeting the needs of the poorest children.
- targeting high quality information, advice and training to weaker providers to ensure that young children in the most disadvantaged areas access the best provision
- continuing to provide information, training and advice as required to help practitioners further their early years knowledge, skills and experience
- using Ofsted’s inspection evidence, to encourage providers to strengthen their monitoring of teaching and progress made by groups of children so that settings have clear evidence of what they do well and what they need to improve
Ensuring all children in Wiltshire achieve their full potential regardless of their background is an absolute key priority for us.
We have been working closely with early years settings across the county to narrow the performance gap between children from poorer households and other children at the end of their first year in school.
Ofsted visited eight early years settings during the focused inspection event however Wiltshire has over 1,000 childminders, early years settings and out of school clubs registered to take young children.
Overall 84% of this provision, which includes providers operating in our more deprived areas, is judged by Ofsted to be good or better and we will continue to work with providers who are not yet judged to be good to increase this percentage.
Despite the relatively small sample for this inspection the recommendations are helpful as we continue to drive improvements in our early years provision. We will continue to work in partnership with providers to implement our plans in order to achieve our high aspirations for all children in Wiltshire.
The cost of raising a child to the age of 21 has reached £222,000 as parents pay 58% more than a decade ago, with parents in the South West seeing the biggest hike in costs, according to an annual study. Families here now pay £100,077 more per child than ten years ago.
Education and childcare remain the biggest costs, with 76% of parents reporting that they have been forced to make cuts to meet the financial demands of raising their offspring, the survey for insurer LV found.
The overall figure is more than £4,000 up on last year and £82,000 more than ten years ago, when the first annual Cost of a Child Report was published.
"The cost of raising a child continues to soar and is now at a ten-year high. Everyone wants the best for their children but the rising cost of living is pushing parents' finances to the limit.
There seems to be no sign of this trend reversing. If the costs associated with bringing up children continue to rise at the same pace, parents could face a bill of over £350,000 in ten years' time."
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Vulnerable children have been put at risk by inadequate child services in Wiltshire, according to Ofsted. The inspection in March found serious shortcomings in child protection. Of 92 cases selected at random, 17 had to be sent back for review.
Wiltshire Council admits the findings were "not good enough" and has put in an extra 500 thousand pounds to address the failings. You can read the full inspection report here