Ofsted has withdrawn guidance which has suggested childminders should notify the watchdog if they have depression or have been bereaved following criticism that the requirement would be ‘intrusive’.
The guidance, originally published on Wednesday, called for Ofsted-registered childminders, nannies or day-care providers to report “any significant events” that might affect their “suitably” to look after children to the inspectorate. The events listed, included those that “trigger increased anxiety, hardship or emotional problems (this might include bereavement, illness or injury)”. Criticisms have been raised due to the onerous nature of the proposed guidance.
The Ofsted guidance which was later withdrawn on Thursday, said “You should report these significant events as soon as reasonably practical but in any event within 14 days from the date the event occurred. If you fail to inform us you may commit an offence.” Other examples of health reasons where Ofsted would need to be notified included “changes to mental health” including depression or emotional issues, or “any other condition that causes anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings or anger”. It has been criticised for its intrusive and ambiguous nature.
Childcare providers were also instructed to tell Ofsted if they were receiving income support due to a new illness or health condition. Prior to the guidance being removed, Jonathan Broadbery, a spokesperson for the National Day Nurseries Association, said:
“It’s a very wide-ranging list, it’s a very intrusive and personal kind of information, and its information that people might not want disclosed. “It’s very concerning because it’s quite ambiguous as to how far that would extend across staff working in these type of settings, and so then you’re asking employers to get information from staff.”
This was echoed by a nursery owner based in the West Midlands who said:
“It’s the level of intrusion into the lives of myself and my staff that I think is causing the most stress. What are Ofsted actually going to do with this information and how are they going to use it? The fact that they’re asking about, particularly mental health, which obviously there is so much stigma attached to that”
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA stated, “We welcome that this guidance has been taken down while it is thoroughly reviewed.” It is unclear on when the guidance will be amended and republished again.
Following this, a nursery owner, who remains anonymous believes this will only stigmatise mental health in the sector, and that there is now an increased risk that staff will suffer in silence. The owner said that if Ofsted deemed a member of staff unsuitable to work with children because of a health condition they would have no option but to dismiss them and feared that this could lead to an influx of employment tribunals.
Cheryl Hadland, of Tops Day Nurseries in Dorset told PA: “I’m very pleased they’ve withdrawn it, obviously, because when I read it last night…I thought ‘Oh my goodness, what have they done?” Explaining that nurseries already submitted information on Covid cases as well as changes in managerial staff, safeguarding issues and maintenance work. Cheryl exclaimed,
“We already have to do an enormous amount of notification, but this was actually more than anything that we’ve done altogether – to notify them every time a member of staff suffered from depression – can you imagine what that would be like? In the middle of a Covid pandemic? I mean, just put us all down for that, thanks! Say I had a miscarriage, and I didn’t tell them, how are they ever going to know? “So it’s totally unenforceable, it’s also incredibly intrusive,”
Cheryl also believes that some providers would shut down their businesses if this guidance was to emerge.
However, a spokesperson for Ofsted has since defended the guidance saying:
“We put together this guidance in response to a survey we carried out, where early years providers told us they wanted more clarity on things they need to inform Ofsted about, such as an incident or health issue. Nothing in the guidance was new. Reporting to Ofsted has always been a requirement of the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage). However, we understand the guidance has caused some confusion, so we have taken it down while we review it to make it clearer.”
It suggests the guidance will re-emerge with some further clarity, but it remains unclear whether the onerous and intrusive nature of the guidance will be toned down or removed.