On 17 March 2020, Ofsted suspended all routine inspections of early years settings, save for where urgent visits were required due to concerns raised about a setting. Originally, Ofsted had hoped to recommence full inspections from January 2021, however due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 Ofsted confirmed that ‘assurance inspections’ would be undertaken from January 2021 onwards. All planned inspection activity will be carried out remotely until the February 2021 half term, and routine graded inspections will resume in the summer of 2021.
What are assurance visits?
Assurance visits are much like full inspections in that they are carried out under the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) and inspectors are required to use the early years inspection handbook when conducting inspections. The purpose of the inspections are to seek assurance that providers continue to meet the relevant requirements to remain on the Early Years Register, but also to find out what it is like for children at their setting at this time. Inspectors will still consider whether the provider is demonstrating how they:
- Meet safeguarding and welfare requirements
- Work in partnership with parents, carers and others
- Safeguard children
- Offer an inclusive service
- Evaluate their service and strive for improvement
The inspections will result in a report being published on Ofsted’s website. A key difference is that the assurance visits will not result in a grading. The inspector will however consider whether the setting meets the EYFS requirements and will result in 1 of 3 possible outcomes:
- Not met with actions
- Not met with enforcement
Another difference is that the inspectors will have due regard to the limitations that Covid-19 may have caused and any dis-application of the EYFS. As many provider’s will already be aware, in April 2020 Ofsted confirmed that the learning and development requirements set out in the EYFS would not be something that provider’s ‘must do’, but something that they should use reasonable endeavours to meet. Inspectors will consider whether a provider is using ‘reasonable endeavours’ to meet these requirements and if this is not the case, it could contribute to an outcome of ‘not met’.
How do they select a setting for an assurance visit?
Ofsted have confirmed that they will prioritise providers that are overdue their first inspection and providers that have previously received an overall grade of requires improvement or inadequate at the last inspection.
Will a setting be notified of the visit?
Prior to the visit, providers will be notified of the inspection via telephone. The purpose of this call is to make any practical arrangements and to also discuss whether any children or staff have Covid-19 or are self-isolating.
What happens after the visit?
Ofsted have confirmed that they will provide the draft report within 18 working days of the end of the inspection. The provider will have 5 working days to comment on the draft report, process and findings. Ofsted will consider any comments made and will aim to share the final report within 30 working days after the visit itself. If a provider remains concerned about a report and wishes to submit a formal complaint, they must do so within 5 working days of the final report.
How can we help?
Our specialist Ofsted lawyers regularly assist providers in respect of factual accuracy challenges, complaints to Ofsted, and enforcement action being taken by Ofsted. Please visit our case studies page find out more about how we’ve helped childcare providers, education providers and social care providers in England and Wales challenge Ofsted inspections.
If you would like assistance with an Ofsted matter, it is imperative that you seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible given the timeframes involved. For a confidential discussion with a member of our team, please contact us on 0161 696 6250 or complete our online enquiry form.