Children playing outsideResponding to the publication of Ofsted’s first Early Years Annual Report, 4Children Chief Executive Anne Longfield OBE said: “Sir Michael Wilshaw is right to emphasise the importance of the early years in supporting children’s development and 4Children shares his desire to raise the quality of early years provision to enable all children to flourish.

However, he is wrong in dismissing the excellent early education and care that is provided in thousands of nurseries around the country every day and it is simplistic and misguided to suggest that all children will be better served by the provision of formal education in schools from two. 4Children is calling for the Government to put early years on an equal funding and statutory status to schools and for Sir Michael to create a new group of expert early years advisers to support his team in measuring and developing early years quality in nurseries, childminders and schools.

Children from the poorest backgrounds need the most support in the early years to enable them to prepare for school. This means high quality, nurturing environments where children are able to play and learn with the individual support of expert early educators and teachers who are specially trained in the early years.

Children learn and develop in this way in nurseries every day but non-school provision often struggles to get the resources from government to provide the expert graduates and leaders that are vital - especially in disadvantaged areas. The new free places for two year olds and new funding announced in the Budget last month from the early years pupil premium begin to change this but this must now be expanded as an urgent priority to put early years on an equal funding footing with schools.

Ofsted has a respected track record in improving quality in schools and now has the opportunity to help raise standards in the early years. However, a one size formal school solution is not the solution for many young children and parents and Ofsted needs to take a more informed and sophisticated approach to quality in the early years.

Sir Michael should join with 4Children in its mission to develop the highest quality environments for children in all nurseries, with childminders and, where appropriate, schools and create a new expert group of early years advisors to provide the knowledge and technical skills to make it happen.”