Ofsted: Routine early years inspections to move to ‘a six year window’

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Ofsted is changing the window for inspection of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders as part of a move to a ‘more proportionate and flexible approach’ that will prioritise the inspection of providers rated less than good.

Nearly two whole cohorts of children could now pass through a setting between inspections.
Nearly two whole cohorts of children could now pass through a setting between inspections.

The impact of Covid-19 and the interruption of its inspection cycle has prompted Ofsted to rethink its approach and to inspect more proportionately, bringing forward inspections of providers that are a source of concern.

Under the new arrangements, all early years providers will be inspected in a six-year window from the date of their last inspection.

This will allow Ofsted to be more proportionate to risk and it will bring more consistency for good and outstanding providers in the time between inspections. Some arrangements will not change:

  • Ofsted will still aim to inspect all new childcare providers within 30 months of registration where possible
  • Childcare providers judged to require improvement will be inspected within a year
  • Inadequate childcare provision will be inspected within six months

If there are concerns about any childcare provider, Ofsted can use its regulatory powers between inspections, and bring forward an inspection following a risk assessment.

Under previous arrangements inspections could fall at any point within a four-year cycle. In some instances, inspections could occur at the start of one cycle, and towards the end of the next – potentially resulting in an eight-year gap between inspection visits.

Routine inspections of nurseries and childminders have been suspended since March, interrupting the last early years inspection cycle and creating longer periods between routine inspections. When inspections under the education inspection framework (EIF) resume.

While inspections are due to re-start in January, EYE understands that this date is being kept under review during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Ofsted’s latest figures, more than nine in ten early years providers are judged good or outstanding. 

When full routine early years inspections resume, Ofsted says it would schedule early years inspections based on the most current risk assessment of the provision from its work as a regulator, including each provider’s previous judgement, in order to prioritise the re-inspection of the relatively small proportion of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders that are not yet good and those where there are significant concerns.

Ofsted said this would enable it to act more proportionately and align with the inspection.

At the Early Years Alliance, chief executive Neil Leitch welcomed the move for providing welcome clarity on and consistency to early years inspections.

He added: ‘That said, six years is still a long time, and it’s important to note that this would mean that nearly two whole cohorts of children could pass through a setting between inspections. It is vital, therefore, that Ofsted ensures that there are clear processes in place to respond quickly and effectively if concerns are raised that the quality of provision at an early years setting previously rated as “good” or “outstanding” has declined. 

‘Of course, by the same principle, the quality of care and education at a setting could also improve significantly over a six-year period, and so those providers rated as “good” who are keen to demonstrate that they are now “outstanding” are likely to be disappointed by this change. As such, we would urge Ofsted to consider how such providers might have the opportunity to demonstrate how their practice has improved sooner rather than later within this new framework.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said, 'With Covid-19 cases still on the rise across England, there is still a lot of uncertainty in the sector. It’s important for Ofsted to recognise the concern this creates and not to push for full inspections too early while settings are still managing the pandemic.

'A greater level of certainty around what the future inspection programme will look like will help providers in understanding when their next inspection may come. It is clearly important for all our children that Ofsted is performing its regulatory role for safeguarding purposes and to see the quality of early education they are receiving through the child’s eyes.

'Nurseries and other childcare providers have been working hard to support families throughout the pandemic and ensure children can access high quality learning environments. Ofsted’s own report this week has highlighted how important this is for children’s development, especially where children have lost out on time in settings.

'It is important that Ofsted continue to engage with the sector around any planned date for full inspection activity to recommence.'



Keep up to date with Early Years!

Sign up for our newsletter and keep up to date with Early Years education, process and events! We promise we won't spam you!