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Ofsted to introduce “more flexible” approach to inspections

By Rachel LawlerOfsted early years inspection update

Ofsted has announced plans to introduced a “more proportionate and flexible” approach to early years inspections.

The new approach will see providers inspected in “six year windows” rather than the current four year cycle, which leaves some providers going up to eight years between inspections.

Under the new system, all nurseries, pre-schools and childminders will be inspected within six years of their last inspection.

Some consistency
Providers that have been rated as ‘requires improvement’ will still be due an inspection within one year and those rated ‘inadequate’ will still be inspected within six months.

Ofsted will remain able to bring forward an inspection if concerns are raised about a provider.

The new system is due to launch when routine Ofsted inspections resume following the coronavirus restrictions, which is currently scheduled for January 2021.

Ofsted says that the new system is “more proportionate to risk” and will give ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ providers “more consistency” in the amount of time between inspections.

New approach
Yvette Stanley, national director for regulation and social care at Ofsted, said: “Parents and carers with young children can be assured that the vast majority of childcare provision in England is safe, effective and high quality, and it continues to get better.

“The impact of COVID-19 and the interruption of the previous inspection cycle presents the opportunity to rethink our approach and to inspect more proportionately, bringing forward inspections of providers that are a source of concern.”

Welcome clarity and consistency
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "The changes announced today provide welcome clarity on and consistency to early years inspections, and importantly, help avoid previous situations where a provider could be inspected at the start of one four-year cycle and the end of another, potentially resulting in an eight-year gap between inspection visits.

"That said, six years is still a long time, and it’s important to note that this would mean that nearly two whole cohorts of children could pass through a setting between inspections. It is vital, therefore, that Ofsted ensures that there are clear processes in place to respond quickly and effectively if concerns are raised that the quality of provision at an early years setting previously rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ has declined.

"Of course, by the same principle, the quality of care and education at a setting could also improve significantly over a six-year period, and so those providers rated as ‘good’ who are keen to demonstrate that they are now ‘outstanding’ are likely to be disappointed by this change. As such, we would urge Ofsted to consider how such providers might have the opportunity to demonstrate how their practice has improved sooner rather than later within this new framework."

Find out more
Read the update from Ofsted in full