Ofsted confirms inspections will continue despite NDNA’s call for a pause due to Covid

Kathy Oxtoby
Friday, January 7, 2022

The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) says providers will be ‘very disappointed’ that Ofsted has not agreed to pause routine inspection activity, given they are facing ‘unprecedented’ staff absence rates as a result of the current wave of Covid cases.

Ofsted has confirmed inspections in early years settings will continue despite NDNA calling for them to be put on pause.

In December 2021, Ofsted put early years inspections temporarily on hold during the final week of term. In an email in December, the Department for Education (DfE) said early years settings, schools and colleges would only be visited by inspectors if there were safeguarding concerns.

Earlier this week, NDNA wrote to Ofsted to request that the pause in routine inspections put in place in the run-up to Christmas be continued for the next few weeks while nurseries are dealing with the latest wave of the Covid pandemic.

 

Inspection programme ‘has not been suspended’

However, in a statement an Ofsted spokesperson said: ‘As a temporary measure, we are not asking our Ofsted inspectors who are also serving [as] practitioners to undertake inspections, so they can remain in their settings. Naturally this will reduce our activity.

‘However, our inspection programme has not been suspended. We will continue to prioritise places where we have concerns, returning to inadequate and requires improvement providers, those we didn’t see in the last cycle, and those newly registered and not yet seen. We will also carry on with our registration and approvals work if providers want us to.’

The spokesperson said Ofsted would ‘encourage anyone who feels unable to go ahead with a planned inspection to let us know at the point they are notified about the inspection. We will look at requests for a deferral favourably and sensitively, unless, as you would expect, we have urgent safeguarding concerns’.

 

Providers will be ‘very disappointed’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the NDNA said: ‘With providers telling us they are facing unprecedented staff absence rates, they will be very disappointed that Ofsted hasn’t taken these concerns on board and agreed to pause routine inspection activity.

‘It does not make sense that Ofsted halted routine inspections in the run-up to Christmas but have reinstated them now, albeit with some mitigation measures in place, when Covid cases and consequently absences are at a record high.

 

‘Knowing that Ofsted could potentially ring just puts additional pressure on already stressed managers who may feel worried about asking for a deferral.’

 

In an earlier statement Ms Tanuku said the early years sector had been ‘struggling with a staffing crisis for a number of years now in terms of the numbers of qualified staff, high staff turnover and providers’ ability to recruit. But this is being pushed to unsustainable levels by high staff absence rates as a result of the current wave of Covid cases’.

 

She said: ‘Inspection activity is vital where there are safeguarding concerns, but it is unfair for nurseries to undergo a routine inspection under the current stresses and strains where staffing is a daily concern.

 

‘Nurseries and their staff teams are working flat out to support children and their families. If the Government wants them to be able to continue with their essential work supporting our youngest children, ministers need to look urgently at putting practical and financial support in place for the sector in order to keep them going.’

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