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5 top tips for preparing for the return of Ofsted inspections

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Coronavirus and children in care or care proceedings

Ofsted have announced the return of graded inspection for some registered early years providers from 4th May. It’s important that providers and settings are fully prepared for the return of inspections.

After a year of upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the likely impact this has had on how they operate, it’s understandable for settings to feel overwhelmed at the thought of having an inspection added into the mix, so here are our top five tips:

1. Make sure you’re aware of the changes to the education inspection framework (EIF) handbooks

Ofsted have introduced a whole new section on ‘inspection during the COVID-19 pandemic’ to their handbook. Ofsted make clear they will take the context of the challenges presented by the pandemic into account.

In April 2020, the government announced that they temporarily disapplied and modified certain elements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to allow providers to deliver the EYFS in light of restrictions. These related to learning and development requirements and staff qualifications and ratios. It included detail on where providers should apply ‘reasonable endeavours’ and ‘best endeavours’, if they are using any modifications and disapplications. The guidance has been updated on a number of occasions since April 2020.

Providers should ensure that they are aware of any actions taken under this modified guidance by carrying out a review. Providers should be prepared to outline any modifications and disapplications during the notification phone call with the inspector, prior to the on-site inspection taking place. Providers should also be prepared to justify their actions and demonstrate they acted in accordance with the guidance issued by Government, in the event these are challenged by inspectors.

In addition, Ofsted are intending to carry out inspections on site wherever possible, but some elements of the inspection may take place via video/telephone calls. This is likely to relate to including parents/carers in the inspection process, as well as those with leadership responsibilities who are unable to attend the setting. These aspects should be agreed between the inspector and the provider at the start of the inspection. Providers should consider in advance whether there are individuals who are likely to require remote contact and be prepared to discuss this ahead of the inspection.

2. Carry out a review of the setting

Familiarise yourself with the areas that inspectors will be focusing on and review these areas for yourself. An inspection will be easier if you have already been through all of these areas already and you are fully aware of any issues, as well as good examples to highlight.

3. Prepare your staff

You have all been, rightly, focusing on getting through the last year and devoting your time to caring for the nation’s children in a global pandemic. It may have been some time since your last inspection and a lot has happened. It’s helpful to talk through the inspection process with your staff and remind them what is likely to happen.

Mock inspections are a great way of getting everyone used to the process, as well as a helpful process for identifying any areas for improvement and areas that you can be really proud of. Instilling some confidence in staff by highlighting areas they are really strong in will have a positive impact for the real inspection.

4. Check staff training is up to date

Ofsted had previously allowed an extension period for paediatric first aid certificates in certain circumstances. This ended on 31st March 2021 and as such, practitioners must now attend requalification training to renew expired certificates. Providers must ensure that these are all fully up-to-date.

There may have been an impact on other training throughout the pandemic and as such, providers should review all staff training and ensure it is fully up-to-date, adequate and in accordance with any advice from local children’s safeguarding boards or local authorities.

5. Be aware of how to challenge an inspection if the inspection doesn’t go as planned

If you are unhappy with the conduct of an inspector, or how an inspection was carried out, you have the right to make a complaint to Ofsted via their complaints process. This should normally be done within 5 working days of the concern arising. It is therefore important you seek any professional advice as a matter of urgency if any concerns arise during an inspection.  

Providers are given an opportunity to challenge the factual accuracy of a draft inspection report and will have 5 working days from the receipt of the draft report to submit these. A failure to challenge a report will result in a presumption that the contents are accurate and the report will be published.

It is vital provider’s seek specialist advice as soon as they receive the draft report; ideally, contact should be made to obtain advice immediately following an inspection if a provider is unhappy with the verbal outcome of the inspection, as this is likely to be reflected in the draft report. If the factual accuracy process is unsuccessful, providers can thereafter utilise the complaints process.

If you have any concerns about a forthcoming inspection, or if you are unhappy with an inspection outcome, it is important to seek specialist advice. For a confidential discussion with one of our specialist Ofsted lawyers, please call us on 0161 696 6250 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly