The Early Years Alliance has written to chief inspector Amanda Spielman to request a temporary suspension of early years inspections – excluding those undertaken in response to safeguarding concerns, in order to slow down the spread of the virus (COVID-19).
In his letter, chief executive Neil Leitch says that ‘during the constantly changing situation, there is a possibility that changes implemented by Government in response to the Coronavirus could have some impact on the way that care and education is delivered in early years settings. This might mean that providers undergoing inspections during this time aren’t able to demonstrate the normal running of their provision as effectively as they would otherwise.
He goes on to say that they believe rather than place providers under the additional stress of an inspection, Ofsted should temporarily suspend early years inspectors.
In a tweet, Ofsted said, 'We’re operating business as usual across our inspection/regulatory work, in line with Government advice. We’re monitoring the situation closely and in daily contact with the Department for Education.
'The spread of COVID-19 poses challenges to schools, colleges, childcare and social care providers – not least the potential impact on attendance and staffing. We will take this into account in our inspections and regulatory work.'
The call follows the news that the UK has now moved to the ‘delay phase’ in the battle against coronavirus, announced by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday.
Under the ‘delay phase’, people have been asked to self-isolate for seven days if they have a fever or ‘new continuous’ cough. All school trips abroad have also been banned.
However, despite Mr Johnson calling the coronavirus the ‘worst public health crisis for a generation’, he opted against following in the footsteps of other countries by introducing social distancing measures, such as closing schools and banning large events, for which he has attracted some criticism.
The prime minister said scientific evidence was that closing schools could do ‘more harm than good’ at this stage.
A petition calling for schools and colleges in the UK to close continues to gather pace with more than 432,000 signatures.
A poll by Childcare.co.uk which was launched after the Prime Minister’s announcement, revealed that 70 per cent of its members that responded believe the Government should close all schools for a period of time due to the Coronavirus.
There has been a blanket closure of schools in at least 18 European countries, including France, Spain, Poland and Italy, in order to reduce the spread of the virus.
Ireland was the latest country yesterday to announce the move, which includes the closure of childcare settings, effective from last night. There are a total of 70 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country.
Belgium has cancelled all classes as of Monday, but schools will have to provide daycare, in particular for parents working in the healthcare sector. Nurseries will continue to stay open.
In preparation for possible nursery and school closures in the UK in the future due to the virus, supplier Hope Education and its sister company GLS have put together a number of resources to ensure children are supported with their learning outside the classroom.