The Education Inspection Framework (EIF)

The Education Inspection Framework (EIF) in England means that early years providers are inspected in a similar way to all other registered settings, including schools and further education establishments.

It is important to understand that the inspection framework:

  • puts the curriculum at the heart of the new framework
  • puts more emphasis on the quality of education and care as a whole
  • reduces the focus on data, particularly internal progress data.

Inspectors will make graded judgements on the following areas using the 4-point scale (outstanding, good, requires improvement, inadequate):

  • Overall effectiveness
  • Quality of education
  • Behaviour and attitudes
  • Personal development
  • Leadership and management.

Providers who only provide care for children at the beginning and end of the school day or in holiday periods will only be inspected for overall effectiveness and receive a single grade against that judgement. They will not receive a grade against the other four judgement areas. This is because these providers do not have to meet the EYFS learning and development requirements.

Providers should expect to be inspected at any time, even if there are no children present.

The list of things inspectors should consider how well staff do includes:

  • reading aloud and telling stories to children
  • encouraging children to sing songs, nursery rhymes and musical games.

There does not need to be a breach of a statutory requirement for provision to be judged as requires improvement.

Frequently asked questions

1. What does the term "cultural capital" mean?

Ofsted defines cultural capital as “the essential knowledge that children need to prepare them for their future success". It is about giving children the best possible start to their early education.

Some children arrive at an early years settings with different experiences from others, in their learning and play. What a setting does, through its EYFS curriculum and interactions with practitioners, potentially makes all the difference for children. It is the role of the setting to help children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the seven areas of learning.

Ofsted video  - What does 'cultural capital' mean for early years?

2. What is cultural capital not?

  • a list of cultural activities to work through and tick off
  • purchasing resources ‘to do cultural capital with’
  • an add on or extension to what is already happening in the setting
  • expensive - you do not have to spend lots of money
  • a display or interest table on cultural capital

Chances are you're already building a child's cultural capital by doing your normal childcare activities in your setting. Reflect on how you can describe and demonstrate to someone else, e.g. an inspector, how what you're doing is enriching the child's experience. 

3. What is a learning walk?

A learning walk is an opportunity for the childminder / setting to explain how they organise their provision – including the rationale for their EYFS curriculum. It’s a discussion and observation. For childminders this may happen in the childminder’s lounge, for example. It really depends on how the childminder organises their setting.

In a childminding setting, the term ‘walk’ is meant to be indicative and not suggest that it must be an actual ‘walk’ around the setting. Ofsted webinar 30 September 2019.

4. What about British Values?

British values are part of the Personal Development judgment. For more information look at our Spotlight on British values

5. Do inspectors expect to see written planning?

There is no requirement for written planning, but inspectors will expect practitioners to discuss what they are planning, what they expect children to learn and what they have learnt (Intent, Implementation and Impact).

Some settings find it helpful to document their planning as a record and to support practice. Others may be confident to discuss this with inspectors without having written planning documentation. This is personal preference.

As long as you're meeting the requirements of the EYFS then how to approach documenting your planning is up to you. 

6. Can I alter my ratios?

Staffing arrangements must meet the needs of all children and ensure their safety.

As outlined in the EYFS statutory framework for childminders: At any one time, childminders may care for a maximum of six children under the age of eight. This includes the childminder’s own children and any other children for whom they are responsible, such as those being fostered.

If a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and, depending on how they are registered, Ofsted inspector or their CMA, that the individual needs of all the children are being met, exceptions to the usual ratios can be made. Examples of permissible exceptions include, but are not limited to:

  • When childminders are caring for siblings, or
  • when caring for their own child, or • to maintain continuity of care, or  
  • if children aged three to five only attend the childminding setting before and/or after a normal school day19, and/or during school holidays, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children.

In all circumstances, the total number of children under the age of eight being cared for must not exceed six per adult.

In all cases, if you decide to care for children outside your usual ratio you should consider the length of time you are providing care, how you will deliver the learning and development requirements of the EYFS to all the children you care for, whether you space and equipment is sufficient and how you organise your day so that all children get enough of your time (from Ofsted childminder webinar 2020).

Group and school-based providers should refer to the staff:child ratios outlined in the EYFS statutory framework for group and school-based providers.

7. Do I need to do a written self-evaluation form (SEF)?

There is no need or requirement to complete a written SEF. During the inspection, the inspector will have a discussion around what is working well and what needs to improve.

Some settings find it helpful to us their SEF as a record and to support practice. 

You can download an SEF from MyPACEY

8. Do childminders need to do a planned activity on the day of inspection?

No. The requirements to observe a specific planned activity and discuss its aims and objectives with the inspector has been removed.

9. What paperwork will the inspector expect to see?

The inspector will only expect to see paperwork as required by the Early years foundation stage statutory frameworks. The Early years foundation stage statutory frameworks state "When assessing whether an individual child is at the expected level of development, childminders/practitioners should draw on their knowledge of the child and their own expert professional judgement. Childminders/practitioners are not required to prove this through collection of any physical evidence." (EYFS statutory framework for childminders p13 and EYFS statutory framework for group and school-based providers p20)

Ofsted say – ‘we don’t aim to see as much paperwork as possible, Inspectors decide what they want to see on a case-by-case basis. Store your paperwork whichever way works for you’. Ofsted webinar 30 September 2019.

10. Will the inspector contact parents on the inspection day?

Wherever possible, the inspector must find out the view of parents, as this helps to give a rounded view of the setting's provision. The inspector may choose to contact parents by phone to request their view or may ask to chat with parents when they come to collect or drop off their children.

11. Where can I get the early years inspection handbook and any other relevant documentation? 

The documents you need are available to download.

Education Inspection Framework

Early years inspection handbook

School inspection handbook

Education Inspection Framework – overview of research

Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years Settings 

EIF Equality, diversity and inclusion statement

Early years foundation stage statutory frameworks

Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Remember to review the publication date to ensure they are current.

12. How can I prepare for an inspection?

  • Prepare as a team
  • Take some time to read the Ofsted handbook/s and supporting documentation
  • Ensure that everyone feels confident to talk to the inspector about how you decide what children need to learn and the order in which to teach it (intent).
  • Be able to explain how you design educational programmes to maximise the likelihood that, overtime, children will remember and connect the small steps they have been taught (implementation).
  • Be able to explain how you evaluate the impact of the curriculum by checking what children know and can do (impact).
  • Ensure that any relevant documentation is up to date, ready and available.
  • You can download a checklist to support you and your team to reflect on and prepare for an Ofsted inspection from MyPACEY. 

13. What will the inspector expect to see in relation to Continuing Professional Development (CPD)? 

The inspection handbook says, ‘Inspectors will gather evidence of the effectiveness of staff supervision, performance management, training and continuing professional development, and the impact of these on the children’s well-being, learning and development’. Early years inspection handbook for Ofsted-registered provision [Performance management and professional development].

It is helpful to keep a CPD log evidencing - what you have done, when you did it, why  you did it, what you learnt and the impact it has had on your work and children’s well-being, learning and development’

Remember CPD is not just about attending a training course, it can be visiting another setting, reading a relevant book, publication, or blog, attending a webinar, researching a relevant topic, taking part in discussions with peers or taking part in on line learning.

Think about how you will explain to the inspector the impact the CPD has had for you.

Read more about Ofsted’s expectations around CPD in the BLOG: Ofsted on continuous professional development. 


Additional resources to support you

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