Once registered on the Early Years Register, we carry out regular inspections to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the early years provision in line with the principles and requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage. We normally inspect newly registered providers within a short period of their registration, if they have children on roll. We then inspect all provision within the prescribed period set out in regulations. This is at least once within three years starting with the 1 August after their last inspection.
The Early Years evaluation schedule is the basis for inspection, and sets out what inspectors evaluate and report on when inspecting registered early years settings. The schedule reflects the requirements of the Act which requires us to report on:
The contribution of the early years provision to the well-being of the children for whom it is provided
The quality and standards of the early years provision
How far the early years provision meets the needs of the range of children for whom it is provided
The quality of the leadership and management in connection with the early years provision.
We normally give childcare providers no notice of the inspection. For childminders or those providers who do not meet regularly, such as summer play schemes, the inspector will usually contact the provider no more than five days ahead of the inspection to check that the provision is operating on the day of the inspection or that a childminder is at home and children are attending. As part of their preparation for inspection, inspectors check any previous inspection reports and information held about the provider including: any conditions imposed; any actions or recommendations raised and any complaints received about the provision. They will also review the self-evaluation form if this has been completed and submitted by the provider. And will seek the views of parents and carers about the quality of provision ahead of an inspection by asking providers to display a poster, telling parents how to contact Ofsted.
During the inspection, inspectors gather evidence about the quality and standards of early years provision through discussion, direct observation and looking at relevant documents. In particular, they observe what the children are doing, the way in which adults relate to them, and how well they care for the children and help them learn.
Inspectors grade the quality of early years provision using a four-point grading scale of:
Grade 1: outstanding – applies to provision that is exceptional and way above the norm.
Grade 2: good – applies to strong provision in which children are well cared for.
Grade 3: satisfactory – applies to provision which is sound but could be better.
Grade 4: inadequate: category 1 – applies to provision which is weak. It gives cause for concern but is likely to improve without external help and support.
Grade 4: inadequate: category 2 – applies to poor provision which needs urgent attention. It gives cause for concern and is unlikely to improve without enforcement action being taken by us, and help and support from external agencies.
At the end of the inspection, inspectors give feedback on their findings and judgements to the childminder or, in group settings, to most appropriate person – usually the registered provider, their nominee or the day-to-day manager. They also explain what needs to be done to improve aspects of provision and/or to ensure that conditions of registration and/or the statutory requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage are met. All inspection reports are published on our website within 20 days of the end of the inspection and a copy is sent to the relevant local authority. We do not include the names and addresses of childminders on published inspection reports.
Using the early years evaluation schedule: guidance for inspectors of registered early years settings required to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage (www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/080124)
Conducting early years inspections: guidance for inspectors of registered early years settings required to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage (www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/080164).
Early Years Inspection Senior Managers
Other Early Years Managers
Ofsted Early Years Inspection Service
Reports & Safeguarding
Inspectors Code of Conduct & Expectations