Updated: Aug 13, 2020
The early years sector has always been one of change, development and transformation and rightly so. But never before have early years leaders had to deal with so much guidance and updates. It’s a good job we love what we do! In their latest guidance, Ofsted have confirmed that routine inspections for registered early years provision in England will restart from January 2021. There will be a phased return to inspection, starting with an interim period of visits during the autumn term. By this time, it is expected that the EYFS will be in fully back in place and previous disapplications will no longer applicable. The timing of routine inspections resuming will continue to be kept under review and adapted as and when required.
During this ‘interim period’ between the end of Sept 2020 and Jan 2021, Ofsted will continue their registration and regulation activity in the early years sector. However, there will be no grading, instead they will publish a short summary of their findings. Short operational notes about how they intend carry out the visits will be available towards the end of September.
If your setting is good our outstanding, and Ofsted have no concerns about your setting and practice, routine inspections will likely start in January 2021. However, in her statement in the HMCI commentary: Our plans for the autumn, Amanda Spielman also suggest that a wider sample of settings will be visited, not just those where there are concerns.
For settings that hold a Requires Improvement or Inadequate grading, inspections will begin take place in the Autumn term as regulatory visits commence, to check on any associated actions. Inspectors will focus on the progress leaders and managers have made to meet the actions set at the previous inspection and how they are improving their practice. As the DfE has disapplied the learning and development requirements until 25 September 2020, inspectors will confirm whether the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) are met. However, it is expected that after the 25th September inspections will also consider the L&D requirements. These visits will not result in a judgement. However, Ofsted will publish a short summary to confirm what it found during the visit. Inspectors can also use regulatory or enforcement actions if appropriate.
Onsite registration visits will continue as normal, as will the registration process.
As we know, Ofsted announced on the 8 June, that they were to resume on-site registration visits. Individuals who have an application that is at the ‘ready for a visit’ stage will receive a telephone call from Ofsted to arrange a visit.
So what does all this mean in practice for early years leaders?
In many ways, this means we carry on as we have been doing. The settings we are working with have not used the disapplication’s and continue to offer the full early years service, albeit to reduced amounts of children and in new and creative ways.
Leaders whose setting is RI or inadequate will still have to meet the actions associated with their grade, demonstrating how they meet the requirements and the actions they have taken to improve. Moreover, we advise such settings to be clear about how they intend to keep building on their progress beyond the actions set. Using their self-evaluation plan, forward planning tool or scrapbook to demonstrate to Ofsted that they are not only meeting the actions they have set, but have thought about how they will sustain these improvements and continue to develop their service.
This doesn’t mean that Good or Outstanding settings can sit back and relax. We know only too well how easily standards can slip if we take our eye off the ball. We know that the emotional health of our children has been impacted over this period and we advise settings to clearly demonstrate how they have met these needs for their children and families. Moreover, as many settings are working with reduced numbers, this could be a great time to ramp up the staff training.
The needs of children and families have shifted dramatically over the last few months and the best leaders will be finding new and innovative ways to support these changing needs. Perhaps you need to tweak your staff training plan to include more training on supporting children's transitions or emotional needs. Maybe you need to increase the communication between you and you parents?
Moreover, looking after your staff team will be instrumental too. Ofsted will likely want to understand how leaders have supported staff through this transition, checked in with them regarding their workloads and ensured they are fully engaged. We have a range of resources in our members bundles to help you with this, from staff check in tools to wellbeing activities.
The over arching theme of this latest guidance is a slow and steady, thought through approach. Ofsted have maintained their regulatory and registration work over this period and now they begin to slowly move toward their more regular processes. At The Key Leadership we welcome this measured approach. No early years setting wants an inspector on their doorstep in the middle of a pandemic, however, we know the importance of such regulation in keeping our children safe and maintaining the professionalism of the sector.
The Key Team are experienced in inspections and leadership across the sector. We can offer a range of support to setting owners and managers. Please reach out and see how we can help you.