Industry thoughts on the Ofsted register
The voluntary aspect of the Ofsted Childcare register (vOCR) is a divisive topic and since it was introduced in April 2007 there have been countless complaints: it is too expensive; it's confusing; there is no incentive for the nannies to register; it lulls parents into a false sense of security. The list goes on. Ofsted maintains that things are running smoothly, but we were not entirely convinced, so we put together a short survey asking the nanny agencies we work with what their experiences have been so far. The feedback we received confirmed our suspicions.
The main gripe is the cost. At £103 for registration and public liability insurance costing from £70, becoming an Ofsted registered nanny is not cheap. Add to that the cost of a first aid certificate, which needs to be renewed every three years and the cost for a course in childcare if the nanny doesn't have any formal qualifications. 100% of agencies participating in the survey agree that nannies are reluctant to register unless a position requires them to do so.The expense coupled with a lack of financial incentive for the nanny means that many are reluctant to register. It also causes a lot of confusion as to who should pay: the employer or the nanny. The survey shows that in 53% of cases the employer pays the registration fee, whereas 52% of nannies pay for the public liability insurance and the first aid certificate.
Another concern raised by several agencies is that the register lulls parents into a false sense of security. Ofsted does not require documentary evidence of nanny's training and qualifications nor do they do many spot checks. Parents may believe that they are getting a higher standard of nanny and think their nanny is more thoroughly checked, but a registered nanny is not necessarily a great nanny, and it is unfortunate that not more emphasis is put on the importance of thorough vetting and reference checking.
88% of nanny agencies report an increase in the number of parents enquiring about employing an Ofsted registered nanny in the last 12 months, yet on average only 10% nannies are already registered. 100% of participating agencies agree that nannies are reluctant to register unless a position requires them to do so.
The main explanation, apart from the prohibitive cost, is the short period of registration. Currently nannies have to re-register every 12 months, and considering 40% of agencies believe registration should be compulsory, this would eliminate the grey area of who should pay and raise the profile of nannies.the high costs involved it's understandable that many nannies prefer to wait until they have a job offer.By extending the period of registration nannies would not only be more likely to want to register; colleges and universities training future nannies could then also become involved and work alongside Ofsted to ensure that all nannies become registered at the end of their training.
Another issue that comes up time and time again is the lack of information available, especially regarding requirements for training and qualifications. According to Ofsted nannies need to state that they are suitable to work with children, but avoids a further definition of what that means. It appears that when nannies get in touch with Ofsted they get conflicting and sometimes misleading information. The question on everyone's lips is why haven't Ofsted produced a leaflet, detailing not only the professional qualifications required, but outlining the whole process in a simple step-by-step guide?
Agencies are in agreement that the current process is confusing and needs to be simplified. One way to achieve this would be to adopt the Scottish method. In Scotland it is the agency that is registered, rather than the individual nanny. All the paperwork is carried out by the agency and parents use the agency's registration details to access childcare vouchers. This would not only simplify the process, it would also ensure that agencies adhere to certain standards with regards to vetting and reference checking.
40% of agencies believe that registration should be made compulsory. This would eliminate the grey area of who should pay, as nannies, along with most other care professionals, would simply have to accept that registration is part of the package of becoming a nanny. A compulsory register would also help raise the profile of nannies as a viable childcare option, and reduce the number of unsuitable people working with children. It's almost absurd when you consider that childminders and nursery staff are required to be registered whereas nannies, who are often in sole charge of very young children, do not currently need to be.