CHILDCARE providers in South Tyneside have come under fire for failing to prepare children for school.
Figures in a new report show just 52 per cent of children are able to read and write at the required level when starting primary school.
The best-performing areas were City of London and Trafford in Greater Manchester, where 78 per cent of pupils were at a ‘good’ level.
Quality Childcare, published by the think-tank Policy Exchange, said children from wealthier areas receive a better standard of childcare and are therefore further ahead when they start school.
In South Tyneside, five per cent of early years providers have been rated outstanding by Ofsted, with 59 per cent judged to be good, 34 per cent satisfactory and two per cent inadequate.
In Wokingham – the most affluent local authority in England – 19 per cent were outstanding, 64 per cent good and 17 per cent satisfactory, with none deemed inadequate.
Nursery bosses and education chiefs in the borough today defended their standards of care.
Coun Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, young people and families on South Tyneside Council, said: “All childcare services provided directly by South Tyneside Council are recognised by Ofsted as being good or outstanding.
“The recent report acknowledges statistics generated by combining results from both council-maintained and private, voluntary and independent childcare provisions.
“We do our best to work closely with private childcare suppliers, offering them support and guidance to improve their services.
“Those childminders, private nurseries and organisations willing to take part enjoy regular proactive networking opportunities, where practical advice is given.
“Council officers also support settings in situ to assess provision and support improvements.”
She added: “Looking at the bigger picture, it is important for parents to know that the evidence shows that children in South Tyneside make good progress through the Early Years, and right through their primary education.
“In fact, by the time they take their Key Stage 2 tests at the age of 11, they outperform the national average across the board.”
Eamonn Gribben, who owns Noah’s Ark Nursery and Westoe Village Kindergarten in South Shields and Noah’s Ark Nursery in Hebburn, described the report as “very misleading”.
He said private nurseries are not notified by Ofsted ahead of inspections in the way that state nurseries are, which puts them at a disadvantage.
He added that nurseries can go for years without an inspection, which means they are unable to achieve a higher ranking, and that there is a north-south divide when it comes to funding.
“There are a lot of good nurseries that do a lot of good work with their children to a high standard,” he said. “The figures are not telling the full story.”
A Policy Exchange spokesman said the ‘school readiness’ figures were taken from the Department for Education.
He added: “It showed that South Tyneside was the second worst area in the country for school preparedness, which is the ability to read and write at school age before joining primary school.
“It is not saying that every nursery or childminder is bad in South Tyneside, it is just saying that children are less likely to be ready for school in terms of reading and writing ability compared to other parts of the country.”
The report’s author, Harriet Waldegrave, said: “Early years education will only have a positive impact on a child’s development if it is of a high quality.
“While provision is improving, it’s not doing so fast enough.
“Most worryingly of all, lower quality provision in disadvantaged areas means positive effects of early years education are less likely to be seen for the children who need it most.”
In response, a Department for Education spokesman said: “This report is absolutely right to say early years education needs to improve.
“We need to learn from other countries that ensure the profession is better trained and give them the freedom to do their job.
“We will be announcing plans on improving the quality of provision shortly.”