Section 199: Inspection of children’s centres
623.This section inserts a new Part 3A after Part 3 of the 2006 Act which makes provision about inspections of children’s centres by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (“the Chief Inspector”) also known as Ofsted.
624.New section 98A places new duties on the Chief Inspector to inspect children’s centres. These inspections must be carried out at intervals prescribed in regulations, or at any time when the Secretary of State requests an inspection. Subsections (4) and (5) of the new section 98A give more detail about the sort of request the Secretary of State may make.
625.Subsection (2) gives the Chief Inspector a power to inspect a children’s centre at any other time the Chief Inspector considers is appropriate, for instance if a complaint or particular concern has been reported.
626.Subsection (3) creates a power for the Secretary of State to set out in regulations the circumstances in which the Chief Inspector is not required to inspect a children’s centre at a prescribed interval, for instance to enable a children’s centre inspection to take place at the same time as the inspection of a school which is co-located with a children’s centre, where this would otherwise not be possible. The regulations made under subsections (1) and (3) will be subject to the negative resolution procedure.
627.The effect of subsection (6) is that an inspection carried out under subsection (1)(b) or (2) may count for the purposes of the Chief Inspector’s duty under subsection (1)(a) to inspect children’s centres within a prescribed interval, so that an inspection would not have to be repeated in order to meet that duty.
628.New section 98B of the 2004 Act requires the Chief Inspector to produce a report after inspecting a children’s centre under new section 98A. New section 98B(2) requires the report to address the contribution made by the centre to facilitating access to early childhood services by parents, prospective parents and young children, maximising the benefit of those services, and to improving well-being of young children. “Well-being” in this section has the same meaning as in section 1(2) of the 2006 Act, which is also the same as that set out at paragraph 588 of these Notes.
629.Subsection (3) of the new section 98B creates a power for the Secretary of State to specify in regulations matters that must be dealt with in a report, or matters which need not be dealt with in a report. Subsection (4) specifies some of the matters that the regulations may require a report to include. The regulations will be subject to the negative resolution procedure.
630.New section 98C sets out what a local authority must do after receiving a report by the Chief Inspector of an inspection of one of its children’s centres. It also gives the local authority powers to send copies of the report to other persons (for example, any third party managing the centre on behalf of the local authority), and to publish the report or parts of it.
631.Subsections (3) to (5) require a local authority to produce a written statement setting out the action that the local authority and the person or body managing the children’s centre (where not the local authority) propose to take in response to the report, and when.
632.Subsection (6) requires local authorities to have regard to any statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State when exercising their function of producing a written statement.
633.New section 98D gives the Chief Inspector powers of entry and other related powers for the purpose of enabling the inspection of a children’s centre. The power of entry may be exercised only at a reasonable time and does not apply to premises used wholly or mainly as a private dwelling (subsection (3)).
634.Under paragraph 9(1) of Schedule 12 to the Education and Inspections Act 2006, the Chief Inspector is allowed to authorise other persons to carry out the Chief Inspector’s functions, including powers of entry. Subsection (4) enables the Chief Inspector to place limitations on an authorisation to exercise powers of entry under section 98D, such as authorising a person to do this only for a certain occasion or period, or by placing conditions on the authorisation.
635.Subsections (6) and (7) give further powers which may be exercised once an inspector has entered the children’s centre premises, to assist with the inspection. These powers include the power to inspect the premises, inspect documents and records (and take copies of them), inspect children and interview staff in private.
636.Subsection (9) provides that section 58 of the Education Act 2005, which entitles the inspector to access and inspect computers and require persons to assist the inspector in doing so, applies for the purposes of the powers to inspect documents and records under section 98D.
637.New section 98E provides that an offence is committed if a person intentionally obstructs a person who is attempting to exercise the power of entry, or one of the other powers in section 98D.
638.New section 98F sets out what procedure must be followed before the police may assist the Chief Inspector with the exercise of the powers in section 98D. The Chief Inspector must first apply to a court for a warrant authorising a police constable to assist the Chief Inspector to exercise a power of entry or other power, including by using reasonable force if necessary. A warrant may be granted only where the exercise of the power of entry or other powers conferred by section 98D has been prevented, or is likely to be prevented.
639.Subsections (5) and (6) make provision about the type of court in which an application by the Chief Inspector for a warrant may be made.