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The return of Ofsted: Part 1 – Before the inspection

date June 24, 2021Rebecca Martland

Are you dreading ‘the call’? In the first of this two-part blog, our early years expert and ‘Outstanding’ Childminder Rebecca Martland will allay your fears and dispel some of the myths that cause such apprehension when that phone rings. Let’s have a look…

When will Ofsted start inspecting early years settings again?

After being halted in February 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, full onsite Ofsted inspections resumed on 4th May 2021.

This pause in inspections means that any setting due to be inspected before the end of the last inspection cycle (1st August 2016 – 31st July 2020) will have been missed out, as will have newly registered settings who are normally inspected within 30 months of registration. This means Ofsted are currently having to play catch up and prioritise those settings most in need of an inspection, including:

  • Where safeguarding concerns have been raised or allegations received that Ofsted have risk assessed and have judged to need an urgent inspection.
  • Settings with a previous ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’ grading.
  • Settings that are overdue their first graded inspection.

When will I be inspected?

Ofsted will continue to prioritise inspections according to the above list. Beyond that, as part of their catch up plan, and their new inspection programme, Ofsted announced they were moving from a 4-year cycle to a new 6-year inspection window, meaning that settings will be inspected at least once within 6 years of their last inspection date. The timing of the actual inspection will be determined by:

  • The date of your last inspection: always within 6 years (30 months for your first inspection)
  • Your previous judgement/grade:
    • ‘Inadequate’ grades will be inspected within 6 months.
    • ‘Requires Improvement’: group settings will be inspected within 12 months and Ofsted will try to follow the same timescale for childminders.
  • Any other information held or received by Ofsted about the setting that might prompt an inspection.

ofsted inspector with nursery staff

Will early years inspections change as a result of Covid-19?

In September 2019, Ofsted introduced a new Education Inspection Framework with an accompanying Early Years Inspection Handbook. This is the guidance to the procedures that Ofsted will follow when inspecting settings. It still feels new as it had only been in use for a few months when inspections stopped.

Ofsted are aware of and sensitive to people’s anxieties and the affect the pandemic has had on the sector as a whole. The Early Years Inspection Handbook has been updated to reflect these concerns and inspectors have had refresher training to ensure that inspections go smoothly.

The government have also published an extensive guidance document called Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak  that includes a section on the system of controls that should be considered when visitors enter the setting, including sanitising and hand washing, cleaning and whether or not masks should be worn. Inspectors should discuss what procedures you want them to follow during the initial telephone call.

Irrespective of the pandemic, inspectors will continue to focus on the core question: What it is like to be a child here?

male childminder with children

Which version of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) will the inspector refer to?

Inspections will be conducted using the current EYFS (2017), until the revised EYFS framework comes into force on 1st September 2021. Many of the aspects of the new EYFS are already reflected in the Early Years Inspection Handbook however, such as curriculum (remember the 3 I’s: intent, implementation, and impact), the importance of developing children’s communication and language skills, and the role of the adult.

When will I get the call?

Inspectors will contact group settings at around mid-day the day before the inspection.

Childminders (and group settings that open irregular hours) will receive a call up to 5 days prior to their inspection. The inspector will not say which day they are coming but will gather information to try to ensure they come on a day the setting is operating with children. If that is not possible, they will usually go ahead with a ‘no children on roll’ inspection which will result in a ‘met’ or ‘not met’ judgement rather than a grade.

As a result of the pandemic, the phone call may be longer than usual as the inspector will need to find out additional information. If necessary, they will call back at a more convenient time, or split the call into two.

What will the inspector ask me?

The phone call is not part of the inspection. It is for you and the inspector to introduce yourselves and for the inspector to gather information about the setting, including:

  • Registration status
  • Age range and numbers of children on roll
  • Opening hours
  • Whether the setting provides any funded places and/or receives early years pupil premium funding
  • Whether any additional support is being provided for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND)
  • Whether any children attending are subject to a child protection plan or child in need plan
  • Any other relevant information
  • Arrangements to meet or talk by phone to parents where possible

The inspector should also advise you of Ofsted’s privacy notice, the requirement to inform parents of the inspection, what paperwork will be required (see paragraph 59 of the Early Years Inspection Handbook), and the general arrangements for the inspection.

childminder waiting in nursery hallway

Anything else?

As well as their usual questions, the inspector will also want to discuss safety procedures, any worries or questions you may have, and talk to you about the impact of Covid-19 on the setting, such as:

  • Staff absence
  • Home learning support
  • Disruption to improvement plans
  • Disruption to children’s learning and progress
  • Your plans to address these issues
  • Whether you have disapplied any elements of the EYFS due to Covid-19

Don’t miss part 2 of this blog where Rebecca will be looking at the format of the inspection day itself. In the meantime, you can now watch Rebecca’s latest webinar on ‘The Return of Ofsted: Are you ready?’ available for Kinderly members. Not a Kinderly member? That’s okay – you can subscribe for less than £2 per week to access all of our early years CPD-accredited webinars and micro-courses.

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About Rebecca
Rebecca Martland has 20 years’ experience in the early years sector: as a childminder, she has received an Outstanding grade from Ofsted for four consecutive inspections. She is an Early Years consultant, trainer, author and Nursery World Awards judge. She is also a qualified teacher and Early Years Professional.