Guidance on Ofsted registration and inspections

Little girl smiling at camera

Update on Ofsted inspections during the Covid-19 pandemic:

Ofsted will carry out a programme of early years "assurance inspections" ahead of the planned return of full routine graded inspections in the summer term 2021. These inspections will confirm whether or not a provider is meeting the early years foundation stage (EYFS) requirements.

The assurance inspections were due to start in January 2021. However following the announcement of a third national lockdown, they have been paused until after February half-term 2021.

Schools and further education providers will be inspected remotely, although this approach will not be used for early years providers.

Ofsted said: "It is not possible to provide the necessary level of assurance of early years providers without an on-site inspection of the premises, so early years assurance visits will be paused until after the February half term.

"We will continue with our vital regulatory work in early years and children’s social care. This work will sometimes require on-site visits, which will be risk-assessed based on the nature of the premises and the urgency of the work."

Ofsted will continue to undertake on-site inspections if it has immediate concerns about a provider.

The department said assurance inspections "will be proportionate and risk-based".

Ofsted's guidance states that:

  • inspectors should consider the usual inspection criteria when gathering and recording evidence during an assurance inspection, but that they should also have "due regard to the limitations the pandemic may have caused" as well as any EYFS disapplications that a provider may be relying on.
  • the purpose of the inspections is to find out what it's like for children in their early years settings and to provide assurance that providers are meeting the requirements of the Early Years Register (and the Childcare Register, if applicable).
  • the inspections will result in one of three possible outcomes: 1) Met 2) Not met with actions 3) Not met with enforcement
  • the inspections will result in a report that will give parents information and reassurance about what is happening in their child’s setting

The guidance also states that the inspections will focus on: 

  • providers who are overdue for their first inspection
  • providers who were rated as 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate' (with learning and development actions) at their last inspection and are overdue for a reinspection 
  • providers where a risk assessment as indicated that there is a need to prioritise them for an inspection and where there are concerns about learning and development.

Providers will be prioritised based on the length of time since their last inspection, and any other relevant information. 

Over the coming months, Ofsted will discuss the approach to routine inspection in 2021 with sector representatives and test it through a series of pilot visits, where necessary.

Read the full Ofsted statement here

Ofsted had temporarily suspended routine inspections due to the outbreak.

Pre-registration visits, including on-site visits, resumed in June and from September Ofsted began to carry out regulatory activity in providers judged inadequate or requires improvement and have associated actions to fulfil. 

Read the full Ofsted guidance on early years assurance inspections.

A Frequently Asked Questions document compiled by Ofsted is available here.


!! Free webinar on Ofsted inspections !!

The Early Years Alliance ran a free webinar Preparing for Ofsted Inspections 2021.

Watch it now!


What is Ofsted?

The Office for Standards in Education, Childcare Services and Skills (Ofsted) is the government department that regulates and inspects different types of childcare provision in England to make sure that the quality of care and education meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

Most settings for pre-school children must register with Ofsted on the Early Years Register. If the setting also cares for children from five to eight years old, as part of an out-of-school or holiday club for example, it must also register with Ofsted on the Childcare Register. There are some exemptions from Ofsted registration for temporary or informal childcare arrangements.

As a registered childcare provision you must give details of the ‘registered person’ who has overall responsibility for the childcare service you provide.

Who is the registered person?

You can register with Ofsted as an individual (for example, in the case of a childminder or sole trader) or as an organisation (for example, if the setting is run by a committee, or the directors of a company). If you’re applying as an organisation, then you’ll still be known as the ‘registered person’.

The registered person is responsible for ensuring that there are suitable people working at the setting, and that the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage are met.

Who can be the nominated person?

When the registered person is a group of people, they share responsibility for the childcare provision. However, the group must appoint a ‘nominated person’ when they apply for registration, who must be a member of the organisation’s governing body, i.e. a trustee (committee member), partner, director or someone in a comparable position. This person represents the childcare provision as the main contact with Ofsted.

What does an Ofsted inspection involve?

Ofsted inspects childcare services at least every four years to see in practice what it is like for a child to attend the setting. Ofsted grades the service as either outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate. If you are a new setting or have re-registered with Ofsted because of a change of premises or status, your first inspection will take place within 30 months of registration.

Ofsted normally phones settings around midday the day before an inspection, so that the inspector can see the setting as it really is, and to reduce the stress of anticipating an inspection. Childminders and group providers who do not operate regularly are usually contacted no more than five days before the inspection to check which days the setting is operating and whether children will be present.

As a rough guide, inspections take around three hours for childminders, while for group provision, the inspector will normally be on site for at least six hours. The inspector will judge the setting based on its overall effectiveness; the effectiveness of leadership and management; the quality of teaching, learning and assessment; the children’s personal development, behaviour and welfare; and the outcomes for children.

After the inspection, a report is made publicly available on the Ofsted website. You are expected to reflect on Ofsted’s findings and share them with parents and carers.


Did you know?

— You can use Managing Your Ofsted Inspection to deliver an interactive in-house session at your setting to help ready your team with the knowledge and confidence to achieve the best possible outcome in your inspection.

— Alliance members get free CPD-approved online training with leading provider EduCare. This includes Managing your Ofsted inspection, which covers the inspection process, how to prepare, and how to interact positively with the inspector.

— The new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) will come into place in September 2019 — For more detail, resources and workshops read our Education Inspection Framework page.