Ofsted guidance and information relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) for schools, early years, children's social care and further education and skills providers.
Following extensive discussion with government and stakeholders, we have set out our inspection plans across all our remits for the remainder of the academic year.
For the rest of the summer term, inspection activity will mainly be on site. In the notification call before an inspection, providers and inspectors will agree safety measures to ensure the inspection is COVID-19 secure. Inspectors will also take a lateral flow test before arriving at the setting.
Any ‘full’ education inspection framework (EIF) inspections carried out in the summer term will maintain the 4 key judgements, but with additional flexibility in recognition of current contexts. We have piloted changes to inspection methods to take account of the challenges raised by COVID-19 and published an updated set of EIF handbooks and guidance.
Maintained schools and academies
We have confirmed that the full programme of graded school inspections will resume in autumn 2021.
On 4 May we began to restart some on-site inspections under the EIF. These include section 8 monitoring inspections of schools graded ‘inadequate’, and those graded ‘requires improvement’ at their last 2 consecutive full inspections.
In line with our usual policy, where inspectors find evidence that an inadequate school has improved and is no longer inadequate, we will be able to convert this to a section 5 (‘full’) inspection, which will be graded.
Similarly, where inspectors believe a school judged ‘requires improvement’ shows improvement, we may deem the section 8 monitoring visit to be a section 5 inspection. We will do the same if there are serious concerns (for example, about safeguarding).
Ofsted will also inspect ‘good’ schools that, due to the pandemic, have not had an inspection within the statutory 5-year window. These will be section 8 inspections and follow our usual approach to inspecting good schools, as outlined in the section 8 school inspection handbook.
‘Outstanding’ schools will also be able to request an inspection. When considering requests, we will prioritise those schools that have gone the longest without an inspection. School leaders can request an inspection by writing to the relevant Ofsted regional director.
We will continue to prioritise inspections of all schools where significant concerns are raised, when necessary.
Unless significant concerns are raised, Ofsted will not inspect secondary schools in the first half of the summer term. This will allow leaders and staff to focus on assigning and submitting teacher-assessed grades. Secondary schools will be included in inspection schedules from 21 June.
Under these plans, most schools will not receive an inspection until the programme of routine inspections restarts in September.
Further education and skills providers
Throughout the summer term, we will continue to carry out new provider monitoring visits (NPMVs) to new further education providers that have not yet received a monitoring visit.
We will continue to carry out emergency monitoring visits or full inspections of providers where serious concerns are identified, and will continue with inspection activity in prisons.
From 4 May, we resumed monitoring visits to providers graded ‘inadequate’ and ‘requires improvement’, where appropriate. See the further education and skills inspection handbook for more details.
Full EIF inspections of new providers that have had an NPMV also began in the summer term.
Non-association independent schools
Inspections of non-association independent schools will continue to take place as commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE).
Between 4 May and the summer half term, DfE will only commission a standard inspection in exceptional circumstances. This includes for a school under enforcement action, or if an emergency inspection of a good or outstanding school exposes safeguarding concerns.
After the summer half term, DfE will begin to commission standard inspections to schools that are overdue their inspection.
From the start of the summer term, a school’s standard inspection will be brought forward if a school significantly improves or declines at an additional inspection. This was a strongly supported proposal in our public EIF consultation. We will publish further guidance on this after the Easter break.
Additional inspections will continue throughout the summer term.
Initial teacher education (ITE)
Ofsted’s ITE inspections started from 4 May. These will be carried out in line with the new ITE inspection framework, published in the summer term 2020.
Inspections under the new framework were suspended during the spring term. During this time, we have carried out thematic research to establish the impact of COVID-19 on ITE provision, including a focus on the quality of ITE curriculums. We will publish a single evaluative report in the summer term to reflect our findings.
Registered early years providers
On-site EIF inspections of registered early years providers began from 4 May. We will prioritise providers:
- judged less than good at their last inspection (including those who received an interim visit in the autumn term)
- that registered recently but have not been inspected
- whose first inspection is overdue
- that were not inspected in the last inspection cycle due to the pause in routine inspection
We will continue to carry out urgent inspections if we have significant concerns about a provider.
Children’s services inspection (ILACS)
From May we will begin a gradual restart of our ILACS programme for local authority children’s services. This phased approach recognises the pressure that local authorities continue to face and takes COVID-19 restrictions into account.
From May, we will restart routine monitoring visits for local authorities (LAs) rated as inadequate.
From June at the earliest, we will restart regular focused visits to local authorities we have concerns about, and/or those we have not visited in some time. We will retain the 10-day notice period until the end of June and/or when further government announcements are made.
We will restart standard inspections before the end of the summer term, prioritising inadequate LAs that are likely to move out of that grade.
From autumn, we will resume short inspections to LAs previously judged good or outstanding.
Throughout our return to full ILACS, we will continue to engage with representative groups and government, and will share information about our plans with the sector.
Inspecting social care providers under the SCCIF
We returned to routine inspections for all settings inspected under the SCCIF (social care common inspection framework) on 12 April 2021. Inspections will be scheduled taking into account:
- any concerns we have about a provider
- the most recent inspection judgement
- the length of time since our most recent visit
We will carry out inspections on site, unless this is an agency where there are remote working arrangements and/or the office is closed.
Throughout our return to full inspection we will continue to engage with representative groups and government, and will share information about our plans with the sector.
In April 2021 Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) started to revisit areas where we had significant concerns about SEND provision when we last inspected them.
From June, we will carry out inspections of local areas that have not yet been inspected under the current SEND framework. The focus of inspections remains the same: how effectively local areas identify and meet the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities. However, inspectors will take into account the impact of the pandemic on the local SEND system. We will discuss with local area leaders how to carry these out safely, in line with the latest government guidance, and may carry out some activities remotely. There is more information in the updated area SEND handbook.
Regulatory work: early years and children’s social care
We will continue with our vital regulatory work in early years and children’s social care. As always, the safety and well-being of children is our priority and we will take urgent action where we have concerns.
- continue with on-site visits where we have urgent safeguarding concerns
- carry out monitoring visits, as necessary, to children’s homes and other settings – these will continue to be a combination of on site/off site/blended, as appropriate
- continue with our registration work in early years and social care, carefully risk assessed in line with government guidance
Providers on the Childcare Register
We began inspecting providers on the Childcare Register in April 2021. Ofsted inspect 1 in 10 providers registered on the Childcare Register each year and select which providers to inspect on a proportionate and risk basis. We will contact some providers to find out 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.
Early years and childcare providers
After our on-site visits or off-site activity, if we take action or ask a provider to take action to meet legal requirements, we will publish an outcome summary on our reports website.
Sending us documents and forms
Please use our online forms, if possible, for early years and social care.
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 email@example.com.
You can find your URN on your registration, your inspection report(s), and on your Ofsted reports page.
Due to COVID-19, there are likely to be delays in reviewing incoming post.
Children’s social care
The Children’s Commissioner for England has issued a children’s guide to coronavirus, which children’s social care providers may find useful.
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.
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.
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.
Early years and childcare
First aid certificates
If your paediatric first aid (PFA) certificate expired on or after 1 October 2020, the DfE previously advised that this would be valid until 31 March 2021. The extended deadline for requalification has now passed and providers must have a valid PFA certificate in place.
Early years foundation stage (EYFS) requirements
The DfE 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 (PFA) certificates
- learning and development and the progress check at age 2
We will not take enforcement action against providers for not meeting the full EYFS requirements, if they are correctly applying the disapplied and modified requirements.
If you have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the setting (either child or staff member), or if your setting has been advised to close as a result, you should report this to Ofsted as soon as reasonably practical, and in any case within 14 days. Notifications of confirmed cases of COVID-19 will not prompt a regulatory visit from Ofsted.
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.
Applying for a change in working premises
Childminders and providers of childcare 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We will review the details and contact you as quickly as possible to discuss your request.
You should tell us if you are resigning your registration. To do this, email email@example.com 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.
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.
If you are selected for an inspection, but for safety reasons wish for the inspection to take place outside 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 carry out a risk assessment with you about how to manage the visit safely.
If you wish to defer your inspection, we will consider the application for deferral in line with our policy on deferring Ofsted inspections.
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.
The DfE has produced guidance about the actions for early years and childcare providers during the COVID-19 outbreak that you may find helpful.
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.
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 last year, but we will gradually restart this when additional inspection reports have been published.