Ofsted plans for phased return to early years inspections

Ofsted has announced that it will be delaying its planned return to inspections.

Originally it had planned to begin early years inspections from January 2021. This has now changed and Ofsted has now confirmed that it will carry out a programme of ‘assurance’ inspections from the start of the spring term to confirm whether or not a provider is meeting the early years foundation stage (EYFS) requirements, while routine graded inspections will resume in the summer term.

Early years plan

  • Ofsted will carry out a programme of assurance inspections from the start of the spring term.
  • Assurance inspections will be proportionate and risk-based. Providers will be prioritised based on the length of time since their last inspection, and any other relevant information.
  • Routine graded inspections will resume in the summer term of 2021 

     

Purnima Tanuku OBE, NDNA’s Chief Executive, said: ‘It’s the right decision by Ofsted not to resume full inspection activity in January as planned, but delay that until summer.

‘These new assurance inspections with their designations of “met” or “not met” are very different to the routine inspections that the sector is used to. Ofsted need to give providers clear guidance so they have time to fully prepare, they should also be clear with parents about what these categories mean.

‘The early years sector continues to deal with a challenging set of circumstances managing positive cases and self-isolation of staff and children. Nurseries have been looking very different as managers have had to prioritise infection control measures while endeavouring to create engaging learning environments for their children.

‘Ofsted must be clear with both childcare providers and parents what these interim inspection arrangements mean and make sure that newer settings are not disadvantaged by not having the opportunity to be judged good or outstanding in the near future.

‘Before Ofsted resumes full inspections in the summer, they must consult with the sector on how the whole inspection process will be reviewed in the light of the impact of Covid, which will remain for many months to come.

‘We welcome the fact that Ofsted has taken on board feedback from NDNA and the sector. They should continue to consult with providers about their plans for next year.’

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: 

We welcome Ofsted’s measured and phased approach to a return to inspections. Early years providers have been doing their utmost to support children and families throughout the pandemic. As such, they will be heartened to know that while we continue to deal with these exceptional circumstances, they will be judged on their commitment to providing the best possible standard of care and education in light of the unique challenges they are facing. 

It is of course vital that Ofsted provides clear explanations to parents and providers of what the new inspection criteria means in practice, and this will be especially important for any ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ settings being awarded a temporary ‘assurance’ outcome. 

What’s more, as full inspections return in the summer, it is important that providers who have received interim visits – and particularly those who feel they have improved – can be assessed again in a timely manner to obtain an Ofsted rating that clearly reflects the standard of care and education they provide.’

 

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