Early years and childcare have been in the spotlight during the COVID-19 crisis. More people have realised how vitally important the EY sector is to our country. Parents and employers have seen how difficult and complicated a world with barely any childcare can be. Without childminders to greet children with a smile, or nursery staff to welcome them in for a day’s fun and learning, the great balancing act of parenting and employment often collapses.
We want – and we know you want – to get back to normal, or as near normal as is possible. Here at Ofsted we’ve started by getting back to on-site pre-registration visits. This is so that new childminders can register, new early years settings be established and new branches of already established settings can open. All to help parents access the childcare they need.
We resumed on-site registrations visits a few weeks ago – but is anything different? The process for registering to provide childcare remains the same. I am sure you agree that it is vital for Ofsted to make sure that only those who are suitable to look after children are registered. However, the current government guidelines mean that inspectors do more preparation off-site than previously and will spend as little time as is workable on-site.
Before the registration visit, an inspector will call you to arrange the visit time and discuss whether you have any fears or concerns relating to COVID-19. The inspector will talk with you about current government guidelines and set out the plan for the on-site visit, so everyone is aware of any extra precautions that need to be in place. This includes maintaining a suitable distance and other protective measures such as hand washing and face coverings.
As part of the visit, the inspector will need to tour the premises, complete the usual identity checks and discuss aspects of safeguarding on site. Some other aspects of the process may happen over the phone or through a video call to minimise time on-site.
Completing some of the process off-site, may take a bit longer, but it’s safer for everyone.
If you are waiting for a non-domestic premises registration visit, where the site isn’t already open and only one other person is present, then it may be that the full process is completed on-site. This is because we will be able to social distance and maintain the safety and well-being of both providers and the inspector. One of our inspectors has offered to share what this may look like.
"I was both nervous and excited about restarting such an important part of our work. It has been vital to consider the anxieties and worries of new applicants and give them enough notice of our visits. Communication is key and explaining how the visit will work in practical terms is so important. We're keen to ensure that our notification calls will explain what aspects of the registration visit will take place on site and the potential for other parts of the visit to be done remotely. We are taking reasonable steps to limit risk by, where necessary, using face coverings, following social distancing, and meeting outside. It's great to be back and welcoming new providers to the sector." Ofsted Early Years Regulatory Inspector
If you are struggling to be ready to open due to household or staff illness or other valid reason, you can defer your pre-registration visit for up to 16 weeks. You should discuss this with the inspector when they call.
"From the first call, the inspector explained it all really clearly so I knew how it would go. I could prepare and knew exactly how things were going to be. They made me feel comfortable all the way through. I’m absolutely thrilled." Ofsted childminder applicant
Here at Ofsted we have been impressed by the resourcefulness and resilience shown by all childcare providers during this very difficult period. We have heard about some of the brilliant work you are doing to adapt to the change in the way you are working. You make such a difference to the lives of children, parents and employers. Thank you for continuing to play your vital role in our society.
You can keep up to date with new information by following the Ofsted coronavirus (COVID-19) rolling update.