Ofsted delays return to early years assurance visits and on-site school inspections

Catherine Gaunt
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Ofsted has paused assurance visits to early years settings, and will carry out school inspections remotely, until after February half term.

Ofsted has 'paused' early years assurance visits until after the February half term
Ofsted has 'paused' early years assurance visits until after the February half term

Ofsted has reviewed plans for the inspections of schools, early years and further education, which were due to begin next week, in light of the Government's advice to 'act as if you have the virus'.

The inspectorate said that it was not possible to provide the necessary level of assurance of early years providers without an on-site inspection of the premises.

However, Ofsted said that it would continue regulatory work in early years and children’s social care.

‘This work will sometimes require on-site visits, which will be risk-assessed based on the nature of the premises and the urgency of the work.’ 

In a statement, Ofsted said, ‘In light of a change in emphasis from the Government and clear advice to “act as if you have the virus” over the next few weeks, we have decided that all planned inspection activity will be undertaken remotely until after the February half term. 

We have sought regular advice from Public Health England and we remain satisfied that our planned on-site activity would be safe and appropriate under current restrictions. However, the new Government messages and the practical challenges of deploying inspectors across England have prompted this change.’ 

Commenting on the inspection changes for early years, Stella Ziolkowski, the National Day Nurseries Associations’s director of quality and training, said, ‘Ofsted’s decision to pause the assurance visits to early years settings is a welcome recognition of the work providers are doing to manage risk in settings and the latest government advice.

‘It is clearly important for all our children that Ofsted is performing its regulatory role for safeguarding. It is paramount that any vital inspections, needing on-site visits, will be fully risk assessed beforehand based on the environment and need for the visit to take place. 

‘We are in regular meetings with Ofsted to provide them with feedback on how nurseries are managing and we are glad they have listened to the sector regarding inspections.’

Schools 

Remote inspections of schools and further education providers will start from 25 January, with a particular focus on how well children and learners are being educated remotely.

Ofsted will inspect schools graded ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ as planned, but will also follow up on complaints raised by parents across all grades of school in order to resolve issues.

As these inspections will not involve an on-site visit, they will be unable to cover the full scope of a monitoring inspection. Ofsted said it would publish details of the inspection process shortly.  

On-site inspections will continue for immediate concerns - for example about safeguarding, the leadership of a school, or a failure to provide education to children. 

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