Guidance on Ofsted registration and inspections

Little girl smiling at camera

Update on Ofsted inspections during the Covid-19 pandemic:

Update January 5, 2022

Ofsted will be encouraging early years settings, alongside schools and colleges, that are significantly impacted by Covid-related staff absences to ask for their inspection to be deferred.

In addition, for a temporary period from the start of January, Ofsted will not ask school, college and early years leaders who are also Ofsted inspectors to undertake inspections.

However inspections have not been suspended and that they will “continue to prioritise places where we have concerns, returning to inadequate and requires improvement providers, those we didn’t see in the last cycle and those newly registered and not yet seen”. Their registration and approvals work will also continue.

However because they are not currently asking Ofsted inspectors who are serving practitioners to undertake inspections, this will naturally scale back their activity. 

In addition, Ofsted are encouraging anyone that feels unable to go ahead with a planned inspection to let them know at the point when they are notified about the inspection

Ofsted has confirmed they will check on the notification call whether a setting feels that it can go ahead with the inspection and that if the setting requests a deferral, that they would look at that request "favourably and sensitively”, unless they have urgent safeguarding concerns.  

Ofsted’s formal deferral policy is available here.

Update July 22, 2021: Ofsted EIF inspections and the EYFS

Ofsted has updated its guidance regarding what schools and registered early years providers need to know about delivering the current and revised early years foundation stage (EYFS).

Read the guidance here

Read the accompanying Q&A 

Update June 2021: Inspection handbook

Ofsted has shared an updated inspection handbook, including:

  • changes on the EYFS disapplications
  • EYFS reforms
  • a new section dispelling myths that result in unnecessary workload for providers


Read the updated handbook 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 Education Inspection Framework (EIF) came into place in September 2019 — For more detail, resources and workshops read our Education Inspection Framework page.