This significant turnaround is a victory for the Ofsted Big Conversation campaigners who have been calling for fairer and more transparent early years inspections.
Ofsted has now confirmed that in future a full inspection will not be carried out as a matter of routine following a compliance investigation.
An Ofsted spokesperson said, ‘When we receive a complaint about an early years provision we consider it very carefully. We look at each case on its merits, in line with our published risk assessment process, and if we believe it to be necessary we will undertake a full inspection. That is what parents expect.
‘It is not the case that a single complaint will automatically lead to a full inspection. That has been the case for some time.
‘However, Ofsted will no longer routinely inspect early years provisions at the end of a compliance investigation. Instead, we will do this when we believe it is required.’
Jennie Johnson, chief executive of the Kids Allowed group of nurseries, and chair of the North West steering committee for the OBC, said it was good news.
‘I am delighted that it appears sense has prevailed, although we wait with interest formal confirmation, as the devil may be in the detail,’ she said.
‘Ofsted can now focus their resources where it is really needed instead of revisiting good or outstanding settings unnecessarily. The OBC has more to do and it will continue to work with the regional directors to improve the relations and effectiveness of Ofsted and the childcare sector.’
Debbie Alcock, a former regulatory inspector with the Compliance, Investigation and Enforcement team, who has been involved in the Ofsted Big Conversation, explained that some complaints are investigated by the compliance team who would then ask Tribal or Prospects to carry out an early inspection when the compliance case was finished.
However, the issue has been that even if the investigation found the setting was not at fault, and the complaint was untrue or malicious, an early inspection was still carried out.
Ms Alcock, who now runs Influential Child Care Training, told Nursery World, ‘What we were saying is that in this case the settings should have been inspected in the next cycle, because it was a waste of taxpayers’ money to conduct a full inspection sometimes just a few months after a nursery had gained a good or outstanding inspection judgement and nothing of concern was found during the investigation. This could mean that a setting could go through a continual process of compliance visits and inspection regardless of the outcomes of either the inspections or the complaints case.’
‘Previously, regulatory inspectors followed the process of pulling forward an inspection when they closed a case regardless of the outcome, asking Tribal and Prospects to carry them out.
‘This meant that even with an outstanding nursery, if a concern came in that suggested it was non-compliant and the investigator finds nothing wrong an inspection would still need to be carried out even if the last had been carried out in the last year, potentially leading to an outstanding nursery having more frequent inspections than a nursery graded requires improvement.’