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14 Apr 2023

Hot Take: Preparing for your Ofsted inspection

Hot Take: Preparing for your Ofsted inspection

Hearing the words Ofsted inspection is often daunting and over the past couple of years, tensions have risen between nurseries and the regulator. Briony Richter details the inspection process and what to look out for;

Ofsted is the government body responsible for inspecting, regulating, and reporting on educational and early years settings, to make sure that they meet quality and safety standards.

In England most settings must register with Ofsted and each one that does can expect inspections. Of course, during the pandemic, inspections were halted, and it seemed that the divide between the nurseries and the regulator only widened post pandemic.

The inspections are a process that most nurseries will be very used to, but like any system, there comes a time when it needs to evolve to meet the needs of the sector which has also had to undergo unprecedented changes.

Key things to know about an Ofsted inspection

The stages of Ofsted


The lowest rating Ofsted has is “Inadequate.” This states that the setting does not provide proper or an acceptable quality of education and care. It will recommend serious improvements that will have to made immediately and the setting will be inspected again within a 6-month period.


Requires Improvement

For this rating, Ofsted has deemed that a setting has provided an acceptable standard of care but improvement on some areas is needed.



For an Ofsted Good rated nursery, the provider will usually receive a brief, 1-day inspection, basically a check up to see if the nursery has maintained its standards.



Finally, “Outstanding.” To receive this rating, your nursery needs to be exceeding expectations on every level based on Ofsted’s requirements.


Early years’ providers across the country are speaking out about the impact of Ofsted’s inconsistent processes, unpredictable inspectors and the tension of waiting weeks, months and even years for an inspection to be announced.

And there are countless ways that inspections programme could be changed for the better. One improvement that has been voiced is to ditch the four-tier grading system and replace it simply with two for a pass or needs improvement system.


How much notice will I receive for an Ofsted inspection?

You’ll usually get a call on or after midday on the working day before the start of the inspection. It’s important to note that the setting will still be inspected even if the inspector has not been able to speak to anyone.

Childminders or providers that do not operate regularly will get a call up to 5 days before an inspection to check what days they work. You’ll be told what time the inspection will start but not what day it will start.

Ofsted do have the authority to inspect without warning but this only normally occurs when the regulator has a serious concern/s about the childcare being provided.


What do Ofsted nursery inspections involve?

During an inspection, the inspector will observe the children in their setting, doing their usual activities. They will speak to members of staff and children to find out more about the day-to-day care and operations and also assess the setting’s implementation of the EYFS.


Small selection of areas that the Ofsted inspector will look at:

  • Quality of care of children – how staff interact with them and the standard of activities and learning offered
  • Settling process for children just starting
  • Steps taken to accommodate children with SEND
  • How the rooms have been designed and filled
  • Staff qualifications – they will talk to various staff members during the inspections
  • DBS information
  • How staff performance is monitored
  • How you would approach a safeguarding issue (They might offer a particular hypothetical situation)


Ensure that all documentation is up-to-date and always have it ready for inspection. This will include:

  • A list of all current staff and their qualifications
  • Staff with first aid
  • List of children enrolled at the setting
  • DBS records and vetting checks


Looking ahead

For 2023, Ofsted have said that it will be “publishing further parts of our research review for the early years. Subsequent reviews will explore the 7 areas of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage, taking into account that the areas of learning are all interconnected.”

It’s vital to familiarise yourself with the early year’s inspection handbook, which explains in detail how you will be inspected and how settings will be judged.


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