Two young children building with wooden blocks

Since September 2012 and the arrival of the revised EYFS, Ofsted has a new inspection framework. The aim of the inspection process is to ensure that all early years settings registered with Ofsted provide high quality care and education.

The process of the inspection
Nurseries and pre-schools have no-notice inspections which means that an inspector will arrive unannounced, usually first thing in the morning. With child-minders, a phone call is made to ensure that they are at home. Inspectors are required to collect evidence and although they may look at the paperwork in settings, in this inspection framework, the focus is on actually observing the way that staff work with children of all ages. Inspectors spend several hours in the setting and in this time, they look at how relaxed and happy children seem as well as the type of activities and resources that are available to help them make progress. Inspectors also look at how staff talk to children and how well the setting is managed. Inspectors will also try to talk to as many parents as possible to get a picture of the setting. After the inspection, the inspector will talk to the early years setting about what they have seen and the conclusions that are being drawn. Settings can offer additional evidence if they feel that the inspector has not 'seen' enough.

Unpicking the results – what does the report mean?
The inspection report is divided and graded into three sections:

  • How well the early years provision meets the needs of the range of children who attend. This section looks at the education side of things and whether children are making good progress.
  • The contribution of the early years provision to the well-being of children. This section looks at the emotional care that children receive as well as hygiene and health and safety.
  • The effectiveness of the leadership and management of the early years provision. This section looks at how well the staff are run, staff training and how the setting tries to keep on improving.

The best grade is a 1 which is Outstanding and the worst is a 4, Inadequate. Settings that have an Inadequate are closely monitored and have to improve in order to remain open. Most early years experts feel that the inspection framework is more challenging and so a nursery, pre-school or childminder that gains an Outstanding is, in theory, showing excellent practice at that moment in time.

My son's pre-school has just had an overall grade of Satisfactory, should I worry?
It is important not to have knee jerk reactions to Ofsted reports. Start off by looking at your own child. Is (s)he happy, settled and pleased to go there? Think also about whether (s)he is doing well or whether (s)he appears bored at times. Research is clear that whilst high quality early years settings can make a difference, nothing beats parents who chat to their children, read books and spend time with them. If however your child is not settled and is clearly not doing well, it might be that you need to think again about where (s)he goes.

Using Ofsted reports to choose where to put your child?
It can be useful when choosing a childminder, nursery or pre-school to see how well they have done in their latest Ofsted, but it is worth bearing in mind that they do provide a snapshot of a setting on a particular day. Settings can improve in a matter of months, but equally an outstanding nursery can go downhill particularly if there is change of ownership or staff. At the end of the day, nothing substitutes for talking to other parents and also visiting the setting with your child at different times of the day. In pre-schools and nurseries, it is also worth talking to the staff who will actually be with your child rather than just the manager. Look out for how much time adults spend talking to children and also see how happy the children are to be left when they first come in.


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Last updated: about 3 years ago