Inspecting registered early years providers: guidance for inspectors

Ofsted inspectors use this handbook when inspecting early years providers.


Early years inspection handbook

Early years inspection handbook

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format.

If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.


From September 2019 Ofsted will inspect early years using the new education inspection framework and early years inspection handbook.

The current early years inspection handbook sets out the main inspection activities and the judgements for inspection under the common inspection framework: education, skills and early years.

Published 3 April 2018
Last updated 4 April 2018 + show all updates
  1. Paragraph 4 updated to reflect current inspection cycle. Paragraphs 37 & 59 amended for the removal of the Ofsted self-evaluation form (SEF) and confirming there is no requirement for self-evaluation to be written. Paragraph 109 clarification that it is an offence to fail to notify Ofsted of a significant event or fail to comply with a condition of registration, ‘without good reason’. Paragraph 113 deleted final sentence to remove duplication. Paragraph 107 provides guidance of when an inspector should contact ARC about an inadequate judgement. Paragraph 121 further clarification to confirm that we do not make the judgement on ‘outcomes for children’ for providers who provide care exclusively before or after school for younger than Reception aged children. Paragraph 134 inspection managers added to those who may undertake quality assurance of inspections. Paragraphs 148 & 170 references to ‘narrowing gaps’ amended to ‘reduce any differences’. Paragraph 153 minor amendment to the final bullet in good grade descriptors for effectiveness of leadership and management to more accurately reflect descriptors for overall effectiveness. Deleted ‘the setting meets the statutory safeguarding requirements’. N.B Inspectors should continue to refer to guidance in paragraphs 100 to 104 of what they should do when they find a provider is not meeting a requirement.
  2. First published.