Guidance

Ofsted: coronavirus (COVID-19) rolling update

Ofsted guidance and information relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) for schools, early years, children's social care and further education and skills providers.

Sending us documents

If we have previously asked you to post documents to us, please either scan or photograph them and send with your unique reference number (URN) to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk.

You can find your URN on your registration, your inspection report(s), and on your Ofsted reports page.

Due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), there are likely to be delays in reviewing incoming post.

Forms for early years and social care providers

Please use our online forms, if possible, for:

If you need to use one of our small number of offline (printable) forms, please do not post this to us during this time. You can scan or photograph it and send it to us by email.

New social care forms

You should access the following 3 forms through GOV.UK, as Ofsted Online has now closed:

There is no change to the regulations or guidance about what you need to tell us or what information we require from you.

Our plans for the autumn

On 17 March, all routine inspections of schools, further education, early years and social care providers were suspended. Urgent inspections where specific concerns have been raised are still going ahead. This allows us to prioritise the immediate safety of children where necessary. As far as we are able, we are continuing our important regulatory work.

Routine inspections remain suspended, but we are carrying out a programme of visits to education and social care providers. Read about our plans for autumn.

We have also updated our deferral policy, including a section on deferrals during this period.

We are in daily contact with the Department for Education (DfE) to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact across education and social care.

Inspection reports and management information

If we carry out inspections or visits we will publish reports as normal on the Ofsted reports website.

We also continue to publish statistics and transparency information. We paused publishing some management information in April, but we will gradually re-start when additional inspection reports have been published.

The Parent View Management Information due to be published in October will not be published as no school inspections have taken place since the last release.

Data from local authorities

We have considered whether we should minimise, defer or cancel the data collections we ask local authorities to give us, in order to reduce the burden on them during this time. As a result, we have adjusted collection timescales to account for the beginning of lockdown and the need for emergency planning time, and we have reduced the amount of data we request. We do not anticipate a delay in the publication of any social care national statistics as a result of these changes.

Also, local authorities are required to provide data on individual children when we need to carry out an emergency inspection due to safeguarding concerns.

Regulatory activity and urgent monitoring visits

This section applies only to:

Ofsted resumed inspecting providers on the Childcare Register and began a programme of visits in September 2020. All other routine inspections are suspended. However, we continue our important regulatory work to help maintain social care (SC) provision for the most vulnerable children, and the registration of vital early years (EY) services. This includes reviewing notifications from providers and other information we receive.

We have temporarily adjusted our regulatory activity to focus on:

  • provision that causes us concern
  • the need to register new provision
  • expansion to existing provision

Off-site activity

We will decide what needs to be done on or off site on a case-by-case basis, considering the lines of enquiry and the apparent level of risk.

The inspector may ask the provider to share more electronic evidence than usual. This evidence will vary, but may include:

  • photographs of premises such as repairs and decoration (and/or having a tour of the building through a video call)
  • safety certificates
  • confirmation of building works, such as invoices
  • updated policies
  • updated action plans
  • staffing lists to confirm that the provider has enough staff to re-open
  • staff training records and/or a careful risk assessment and plan for training (including e-learning, given the current circumstances)

On-site visits to social care providers

In addition to assurance visits, we may carry out on-site visits to social care providers when:

  • off-site inspection activity has not provided enough evidence that children are safe
  • we have received concerns that we can only fully consider through an on-site visit
  • we must visit to be able to decide whether to take, or to stop taking, regulatory action

There may be other circumstances in which we decide that an on-site visit is necessary, but we will decide those on a case-by-case basis.

Urgent monitoring visits to social care providers

We may announce an urgent monitoring visit so that we can take account of the circumstances, such as whether any children are self-isolating.

In some cases, we may need to visit unannounced. When this happens, the inspector will explain on arrival why they have come and ask the provider to take action so that they can safely enter. The inspector will usually stay outside while they do this.

Inspectors will plan the visit to ensure that they are on site for the minimum amount of time.

The inspector will ask the provider to try to limit the number of children and staff that they will need to see, talk to or meet with. They will ask the provider to help any child who is self-isolating or unwell to stay separate from the inspector. Inspectors will follow government guidance on, for example, washing hands, physical contact and social distancing.

Inspectors will be able to raise statutory requirements and recommendations where relevant. However, these will be focused on the things that are directly affecting the safety and well-being of children. They will take account of what is, and is not, within the provider’s control during this time.

On-site visits to early years and childcare providers

We will only make on-site visits after we have considered evidence from off-site activity, for example if off-site activity has raised concerns and there is insufficient evidence that allows us to decide that children are safe.

Inspectors will plan the visit to ensure that they are on site for the minimum amount of time. In announced visits, they will agree in advance with the registered provider what activity they will carry out.

After any off-site activity or on-site visits

After carrying out off- or on-site activity, we will usually arrange a case review to decide what further action to take (if any). This may include a decision to go on site.

For social care providers

Off-site activity and urgent monitoring visits will not result in a judgement based on the 4-point scale, as set out in the SCCIF. However, we will usually publish a report to help local authorities and commissioners in their decision-making. The report will include information such as:

  • the off-site activity we carried out
  • the findings from any on-site visit
  • what the provider told us, and the evidence it shared with us
  • what action we have decided to take (if any)
  • whether we have evidence to suggest that children are not, or are no longer, at risk (where relevant)

For early years and childcare providers

After our on-site visits or off-site activity, we may publish an outcome summary of any action we take or ask a provider to take in order to meet legal requirements at this time, if appropriate.

We will take a proportionate approach that recognises the actions a provider may need to take to provide urgent childcare for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, while keeping children safe.

Children’s social care

Ofsted began making assurance visits in September 2020. Read our plans for autumn and guidance on our assurance visits.

We continue to register social care providers and managers. We have made some changes to the steps we take in completing the registration process. Contact throughout the process will be by a combination of face-to-face, telephone, email or video call. We will keep any visits to a minimum and follow the latest government guidelines, restrictions and safety advice.

The Children’s Commissioner for England has issued a children’s guide to coronavirus, which children’s social care providers may find useful.

Legislation, regulations and statutory guidance

We do not have the power to disapply or waive legislation, regulation or statutory guidance, for example around regulation 44 inspections. Legislative change is a matter for central government and, ultimately, parliament.

However, we recognise that we are in exceptional circumstances. You will have to make pragmatic decisions in the best interests of children. You should carry out a careful risk assessment of any action you take and keep a clear record of the decisions that you make.

We expect all providers to follow Public Health England’s advice. We expect you to think about alternative ways to keep in contact, supervise provision and maintain oversight, such as using telephone or video conferencing, while recognising the limitations of this approach. We are, of course, sensitive to the challenges that all providers are facing. We take a balanced and proportionate approach to regulation, taking account of how people have tried to satisfy regulatory requirements in these difficult circumstances.

Notifying Ofsted

You only need to notify us about incidents that the regulations require you to tell us about. We do not need you to tell us about anything else.

Foster carer recruitment

The current regulations allow fostering agencies and services to bring in recently retired or de-registered foster carers, rather like the NHS has done with doctors and nurses.

We expect you to do a careful risk assessment of any action you take and to keep a clear record of the decisions made.

Senior staff of providers visiting children’s homes

Senior or regional managers of providers may need to visit children’s homes in person during the current situation. They have responsibilities to safeguard children, and although online and telephone communication may be able to replace some face-to-face aspects of this, providers should retain the option to visit in person when necessary.

All providers need to take a balanced approach to this in the current circumstances. They should follow the government guidance on social distancing where possible.

Changes to children’s social care registration

We have made temporary changes to the process for those applying to register social care provision at the moment.

We have also added a fast-track application process specifically for registering children’s home provision in an emergency.

We will still follow the guide to registration of children’s social care services as far as possible.

Early years and childcare

We have announced our plans for autumn. In September we began a programme of visits to education providers, including early years settings.

We have now published more detail about how our early years interim visits will work in practice.

On 11 September the Secretary of State for Education wrote to Ofsted to outline the requirements for the autumn term, which included the request for Ofsted to return to inspecting 1 in 10 providers registered on the Childcare Register each year. Following this, Ofsted will resume inspecting these providers from 16 September. We select which providers to inspect on a proportionate and risk basis. Ofsted will be contacting some providers to determine whether they are currently operating and available for inspection.

Inspection of provision registered only on the Childcare Register (either or both parts) is a compliance inspection. It is not to make judgements about the quality of the provision but to make sure that the provider is complying with the requirements of the register.

Notifications

Any confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the setting (either child or staff member), or if the setting has been advised to close as a result, should be reported to Ofsted as soon as reasonably practical, and in any case within 14 days. Please read the guidance on reporting incidents to ensure you include all of the information required.

Letting us know if you are open or closed

We have been working with the DfE and local authorities to find out which early years providers, including childminders, are currently open or temporarily closed. This is to help find out if there is sufficient and accessible childcare available and to help support vulnerable children as best we can.

If your operating circumstances do change (you open or close), notify us by sending an email to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk with ‘Change in operating hours’ in the subject field. In the body of the email, please confirm the unique reference number for each setting and the details of the change. You can find your URN on your registration, your inspection report(s), and on your Ofsted reports page.

Registration visits

In June 2020, we started to return to 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 see if we can arrange a visit.

Applicants reserve the right to withdraw their application, or put their application on hold.

Fast-track application process

To support local authorities and registered early years and childcare settings, we have put in place temporary arrangements that allow us to fast-track applications and requests from existing providers only to operate provision in a different way or to set up additional premises.

Contact your local authority for further information on this.

Resigning registrations

You should tell us if you are resigning your registration. To do this, email enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk from your email address that we have on your registration and include your unique reference number (URN). You can find your URN on your registration, your inspection report(s), and on your setting’s Ofsted reports page.

First aid certificates

The DfE has updated their guidance on early years foundation stage (EYFS) disapplications. This states that if paediatric first aid (PFA) certificate requalification training is prevented for reasons associated directly with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, or by complying with related government advice, the validity of current certificates can be extended to 25 November 2020 at the latest. This applies to certificates expiring on or after 16 March 2020 and includes paediatric first aiders in provision registered on the general Childcare Register as well as all early years provision.

Nannies

If you are a nanny on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register, you should discuss with the family you work for to see if it is appropriate for you to carry on working at this time.

On 11 September the Secretary of State for Education wrote to Ofsted to request the resumption of inspection of providers registered on the Childcare Register. If you are selected for an inspection, but for safety reasons wish for the inspection to take place outside of the home of the children you care for, please discuss this with the inspector when they call. Ofsted inspectors will be flexible given the current challenges of COVID-19 and recognise that providers may be anxious about visitors within a setting. Inspectors will risk assess with you how to manage the visit safely including whether there will be any remote activity.

If you wish to defer your inspection, we will consider the application for deferral in line with our published policy.

Invoices for annual fees

In April, we extended our usual payment timelines to help support the sectors we inspect and regulate. If your annual fee date was after 3 April 2020, you had until 30 September 2020 to make payment. We wrote to some providers in August to remind them of this date and with payment information. If you chose to delay your payment, this will not affect your annual fee date.

Applying for a change in working premises

Childminders and childcarers looking after the children of key workers on domestic premises can apply to work from non-domestic premises for up to 50% of their time. If you would like to do this, email your application form to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk. We will review the details and contact you as quickly as possible to discuss your request.

Regulation and inspection of early years providers

Since 1 June, early years and childcare settings have returned to wider opening for all children, as well as vulnerable children and children of critical workers.

At the moment, much of what we do in our role at Ofsted will stay the same, but some things will be different in order to support providers with the current context.

Early years foundation stage (EYFS) requirements

The DfE has provided temporary flexibility in meeting some requirements of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework. This includes those around:

  • ratios and qualifications of staff
  • paediatric first aid certificates
  • learning and development and the progress check at age 2

This temporary legislation has been passed in parliament. All other current requirements in the framework continue to apply.

The DfE expects these reduced requirements to remain in place until at least 25 September 2020. It is regularly reviewing this date.

Therefore, during this time, we will not penalise any providers if they cannot fully meet the requirements due to the current protective measures. But providers should take all reasonable steps to meet the existing learning and development requirements where possible, given the benefits to children in having a broad range of educational opportunities.

Routine inspections

Routine inspections, which report on the quality of education that children in the EYFS receive while attending an early years or childcare provider, remain suspended.

However, we continue to take action against providers and intervene when we have evidence that they are not meeting any of the other requirements that continue to apply, for example in keeping children safe and healthy. We continue to have a role in ensuring that these are met.

Information for parents of children in early years provision during this time

If you have concerns about your child’s early years or childcare provider, you should still try to resolve these directly with the provider in the first instance, as is the case in normal times. You should only inform us if you remain dissatisfied with the provider’s response, or if you have a serious concern about children’s safety and well-being.

During this time, your concerns may be about protective measures that the early years provider should implement. The DfE has guidance on implementing protective measures, which covers issues such as:

  • social distancing
  • PPE equipment for staff
  • staff or children showing symptoms

As in normal circumstances, we have no power to get involved with contractual issues, such as disputes about fees and operating hours. It is up to providers how they charge for their services and the hours that children can attend for. The DfE’s frequently asked questions about funding issues may be helpful.

Joiners and leavers

We have published new management information about monthly joiners and leavers in the childcare sector. New data will be released every month until the end of the year, subject to review.

It is likely that there are fewer joiners and leavers across our registers than we would normally see due to a delay in the effect of COVID-19. This delay may in part be affected by our freeze on invoices for annual fee payments.

You can find information about Ofsted’s role in regulating childcare.

Ofsted staff

During this period, around 700 Ofsted staff have been supporting local authorities, government departments and other organisations with the response to COVID-19.

More than 250 staff have been deployed to local authorities. These colleagues are helping to support vulnerable children, develop safeguarding processes and communicate with school leaders.

A number of qualified staff have been working in children’s homes, and more have volunteered to be emergency foster carers. Colleagues have also been supporting the London Gold group, across all London local authorities, to recruit staff into care settings. Some of our school inspectors have been supporting Star Line, a home-learning parent helpline.

Around 300 staff have been supporting government departments. Staff from across Ofsted – inspectors, administrative staff and other specialists – have been working with the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions. We have also had a small number of colleagues volunteering with the NHS.

Published 19 March 2020
Last updated 22 October 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated the information for early years and childcare.

  2. Updated the early years and childcare information on invoices for annual fees.

  3. Added information for childcare providers about reporting cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) to Ofsted and any related closures.

  4. Updated to confirm that no Parent View management information will be published in October.

  5. Updated guide: Ofsted's inspection of providers on the Childcare Register will resume from 16 September.

  6. Added links to guidance on what activity we will carry out for schools, further education and skills providers, and early years providers from September 2020.

  7. Updated the information for early years and childcare providers on letting us know if you are open or closed at this time.

  8. Included details of new management information published about joiners and leavers in the childcare sector.

  9. Added links to new guidance on assurance visits for social care providers. Moved guidance on temporary changes to social care registration: this can now be found with the social care registration handbook.

  10. Added link to new guidance on interim visits to early years providers in the 'Early years and childcare' section.

  11. Updated information for early years professionals on paediatric first aid certificates.

  12. Added information for children's social care on regulatory work and temporary changes to registration, and for early years and childcare providers on fast-track applications to operate in a different way or to set up additional premises. Also removed some out-of-date information. information for children's social care on regulatory work and temporary changes to registration.

  13. Updated the section on inspection reports from recent inspections, which we had paused from publishing. Some providers with unpublished reports asked for them to be published, and we have now done this. We will also begin to publish any remaining reports from next week, and will contact affected providers beforehand to confirm this.

  14. Updated to note that that nannies on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register should discuss with the family they work for to see if it is appropriate to carry on working at this time.

  15. Updated to add that from 8 June 2020, we will start to return to doing on-site registration visits for early years and childcare providers. Individuals who have an application that is at the ‘ready for a visit’ stage will soon receive a telephone call from us.

  16. Updated to add information about Ofsted management information publications, and information for early years and childcare professionals on paediatric first aid certificates that are due to expire.

  17. Updated with a new section on regulation and inspection of early years providers as they return to providing care for all children, including information for parents of children in early years provision during this time.

  18. Updated to add information on completing social care and early years forms online.

  19. Updated to add more information for early years and childcare providers on letting us know if you are opening or temporarily closing at this time.

  20. Updated with information on changes to the data collections we request from local authorities during this time.

  21. Updated to add information on how Ofsted staff are supporting local authorities, government departments and other organisations with the response to COVID-19.

  22. Updated to add that the Department for Education has announced plans for re-opening early years and childcare settings from 1 June 2020.

  23. Updated to include that we are working with local authorities to find out which early years providers, including childminders, are currently open or temporarily closed. Added instructions on how to notify us if you are opening or closing.

  24. Added guidance about a temporary fast-track application process specifically for registering emergency children’s homes provision during this time.

  25. Updated with information on our temporary changes to the process for those applying to register children's social care provision during this time.

  26. Updated to include that some schools, further education providers and early years providers have contacted us asking us to publish the report of their recent inspection. We had said that we would publish those reports only when providers reopen as normal for all children/students. We are now writing to all providers with reports in the pipeline to ask whether they would like their report published as soon as possible. If they say yes, we will publish their report shortly.

  27. Updated to note that temporary legislation relating to the early years foundation stage is now passed in parliament.

  28. Updated to include information from DfE on planned legislation on temporary flexibility to the EYFS.

  29. Updated section on routine inspections being suspended to add information on publishing inspection reports and management information.

  30. Updated to request that early years and social care providers use our online forms if possible, and if they need to use a printable form to please send this to us by email.

  31. Update to include guidance for children's social care and early years and childcare providers on Ofsted's regulatory activity and urgent monitoring visits during this time.

  32. Updated to add that at Ofsted, we're working with local authorities and the wider Civil Service to deploy our staff to areas where they are needed most, based on their skills and experience.

  33. Added further guidance for children's social care providers on: existing regulations and legislation, new children's guide to coronavirus, recruiting foster carers, and senior staff visiting children's homes at this time.

  34. Added information for childcarers on how to apply to work from non-domestic premises for up to 50% of time, and on invoices for early years annual registration fees issued from 3 April, which will will now have a due date of 30 September 2020 so that settings can delay their payment during this time.

  35. Updated guidance links for employers and employees.

  36. Updated information for children's social care providers on registering with Ofsted and sending us notifications.

  37. Updated to include information for nannies.

  38. Updated to include a section on our consultation work during this period.

  39. If we have previously asked you to post documents to us, please either scan or photograph them and send with your unique reference number (URN) to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk.

  40. Updated to include links to DfE guidance for schools, early years and further education providers on implementing social distancing, maintaining provisions, closures and attendance.

  41. Updated with information for childminders, including advice about first aid certificates.

  42. Updated to include that we will not be publishing reports from our recent inspections of schools, further education and early years providers until they reopen as normal for all children/students. We will continue to publish a small number of reports from recent social care inspections.

  43. Updated to include links to advice for vulnerable children and young people and guidance about cancelling GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2020, free school meals and isolation in residential educational settings.

  44. Updated with a reminder to use registered childcare in order to keep children safe.

  45. Updated to include information from the Department for Education asking schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders and other registered childcare settings to remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children where they can. Also added links to information for parents and definitions of vulnerable children and key workers.

  46. First published.