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NEWS: Ofsted announces its return to inspections in England

Ofsted has today updated the ‘current activity’ section of its Ofsted COVID-19 rolling update with further information about the plans for inspection and regulatory work of early years and childcare providers in England.

It confirms that on-site EIF inspections of registered early years providers will begin in England from 4 May. These inspections will be prioritised based on:

  • Providers that were judged less than good at their last inspection (including those who received an interim visit in the autumn term)
  • Providers that registered recently but have not been inspected
  • Providers whose first inspection is overdue
  • Providers that were not inspected in the last inspection cycle due to the pause in routine inspection

If Ofsted takes action or ask a provider to take action to meet legal requirements, an outcome summary will be published on its reports website. An updated set of inspection handbooks will be published shortly, outlining its changes to inspection methods that have been piloted recently.

In the meantime, Ofsted will be continuing with its vital registration and regulatory work in early years and childcare settings, for example where specific concerns have been raised. This work may require on-site visits, depending on a risk assessment.

Ofsted inspections: Questions and answers

Q: What format will the inspections take?

All inspections will be carried out on site. However, it may be pragmatic to do some elements of the inspection through video calls. This will be agreed with the provider at the start of the inspection. It will usually only be used to involve parents/carers and those with leadership responsibility who are unable to attend the setting. 

Q: How will Ofsted ensure everyone remains safe on inspection?

Ofsted will prioritise the safety and welfare of everyone involved in inspections, including children, carers, staff and inspectors - following the most up-to-date guidance from Public Health England. In the notification call before an inspection, providers and inspectors will agree safety measures to ensure the inspection is COVID-19 secure and how inspectors can work effectively within the protective measures in place. Inspectors will also take a lateral flow test before arriving at the setting and PVIs and Childminders now have access to these tests too. Where possible, any interactions with practitioners, leaders and parents will be in a socially distanced manner. This could include, but is not limited to, standing 2 metres apart in a large room and conversations/meetings taking place outside or by telephone. What precautions are needed will vary from provider to provider and activity to activity, but inspectors will always ensure that they are acting safely and within the clear guidance given.

Q: What if a provider has active cases of COVID-19 or staff / children self isolating?

Where a provider has active cases of COVID-19 in their setting, they can request a deferral of their inspection at the point of notification. Ofsted will consider all requests in line with our published deferral policy. 
 
Q: What if I am a childminder and have family members shielding in another part of my home?

On 18 March the government announced that shielding advice to the clinically extremely vulnerable will cease from 1 April 2021 and those on the shielded patient list can begin to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population. Ofsted understands that people on the shielded patients list are still advised to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe and will prioritise the safety and welfare of everyone involved in inspections. In the notification call before an inspection, providers and inspectors will agree safety measures to ensure the inspection is COVID-19 secure and how inspectors can work effectively within the protective measures in place. 
 
Q: When will I have my EIF inspection?

Last autumn Ofsted confirmed that itwill move to a six year inspection window. This means each provider has their own inspection window, which is determined by their last inspection judgement. As Ofsted prepares for a return to full EIF inspection, it will take a proportionate and risk-based approach to who is inspected first. It will prioritise providers who: were judged less than good at their last inspection (including those who received an interim visit in the autumn term); providers recently registered that have not been inspected and whose first inspection is overdue, and those that have not been inspected in the last inspection cycle due to the pause in routine inspection. Ofsted is unable to answer specific questions about the timing of an inspection for individual providers. 

Update to coronavirus disapplications

In light of restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the DfE allowed temporary extension and flexibility within certain elements of the EYFS framework. As part of this, if a practitioner’s paediatric first aid (PFA) certificate expired on or after 1 October 2020, the DfE extended the validity of certificates until 31 March 2021. After this date, practitioners will need an up to date certificate for requalification. 

Read more in the DfE statutory guidance about coronavirus disapplications and modifications to the EYFS.