The Education Inspection Framework (EIF)

In September 2019 Ofsted changed the way it inspects schools, colleges, further education institutions and early years settings in England when the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) replaced the Common Inspection Framework (CIF). 

It is important to understand that the new inspection framework does represent a shift in focus. It will:

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

But don't worry, PACEY is here to help. We've a range of additional resources to support practitioners understand the changes including our 'Early years inspection handbook: guide to key changes' in the shop and our comprehensive guidebook. You can also watch a video about the pilot inspections below and see if your query is answered in our FAQs

Remember that the EYFS is not changing - yet. There is work being done to create a new EYFS framework which is due to be implemented in 2021, but for the time being, it's just the inspection framework - how Ofsted inspectors judge your setting against the EYFS - that's been updated.

What is changing – and what is not?

The most significant changes in the EIF concern the new judgement areas and grade descriptors.

The judgement areas under the EIF are:

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

There are also a number of additional changes to the way that inspections are conducted. The most notable of these are:

  • 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 now includes:
    • read aloud and tell stories to children
    • encourage children to sing songs, nursery rhymes and musical games.
  • For childminders, the requirement to observe a specific planned activity and discuss its aims and learning intention with the inspector has been removed.
  • There is clarification that there does not need to be a breach of a statutory requirement for provision to be judged as requires improvement.

In terms of what is not changing, Ofsted has been clear that it will continue to:

What's an inspection like under the new framework?

We spoke to Vicky*, a registered childminder who undertook a pilot inspection with Ofsted as part of the EIF testing process. Here are her words of wisdom about what to expect.

*Please note that this video is one experience from pilot inspections. Every inspection will be different depending on your everyday practice and what works best for you.

Frequently asked questions

When will the EIF start?

The EIF has been in force since 1 September 2019 and replaced the Common Inspection Framework.

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?

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. 

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.

What about British Values?

British values remain in the EYFS and are part of the Personal Development judgment. There's more information about British values elsewhere in this website.

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. 

Can I alter my ratios?

No more than six children are being cared for at any one time. An exception cannot be used to exceed the maximum of six children. So, while childminders can alter the age ranges of children, they cannot exceed the maximum number of six children overall

The EYFS 3.30 (page 28) says "Exceptionally, and where the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained, changes to the ratios may be made." This applies to all settings but childminders cannot have more than six children under the age of eight per adult providing care. Settings do not need to seek approval from Ofsted in advance but you must be able to explain your rationale to the inspector when they visit.

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).

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

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.

What paperwork will the inspector expect to see?

The inspector will only expect to see paperwork as required by the EYFS. The EYFS states "practitioners should draw on their knowledge of the child and their own expert professional judgement and should not be required to prove this through collection of physical evidence’ (EYFS21 2.2 p18)"

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.

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.

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

Education Inspection Framework

Early years inspection handbook

School inspection handbook

Education Inspection Framework – overview of research

Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years Settings (from September 2019)

EIF Equality, diversity and inclusion statement

Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage

Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage

There are other resources available from PACEY (listed below) to help you understand and interpret the new Education Inspection Framework.


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. 

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 2021 point 123.

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.

What happens on an early years inspection?

Additional resources to support you

  • Early years inspection handbook: guide to key changes - if you are a PACEY member, you can download this for FREE in MyPACEY, non-members can purchase this in the shop.
  • Education Inspection Framework and You - Written by early years expects, this guide explains how inspection procedures in early years settings have changed; how the EIF judgements work and; how to prepare for an inspection.
  • What does Ofsted mean by cultural capital? - read our latest blog from Ofsted, to get a clear understanding of what this terminology means for you and your inspections.
  • Read about how the EIF impacts safeguarding and the changes that have been made.
  • On the 10 June 2019, Ofsted held a webinar for childminders on the 'Education Inspection Framework: Inspecting the substance of education'. You can view the webinar below. 

  • What does the new inspection framework mean for childminders? Read Ofsted's blog about what you really need to think about when being inspected this autumn.
  • On the 30 September 2019, Ofsted held a webinar for childminders on 'What do inspectors look for? You can view the webinar below.