Skip to main content

Nursery Managers Show


22 Feb 2024

Nursery Managers Guide: How to Prepare for Ofsted

Nursery Managers Guide: How to Prepare for Ofsted
What are Ofsted inspectors looking for when they visit an early years setting? Find out in our Nursery Managers Guide to preparing for Ofsted.

How often do nurseries get inspected by Ofsted?

Ofsted will typically inspect a new nursery within 30 months of registration and then at least once every 6 years. They will inspect more frequently if they receive any complaints about the nursery.

If a nursery is considered to be inadequate during inspection, Ofsted will return to re-inspect within six months.

What can I expect from an Ofsted inspection in early years?

If your nursery is going to be inspected by Ofsted, you will be informed by phone call the day before. There will be an exception to this if Ofsted has received a complaint about your nursery. In this case, there will be a surprise inspection that you won’t know about in advance.

During the inspection, an inspector will spend the day observing everyday activities in the nursery. They will not do anything to disrupt routine for the children or staff.

The aim is for the inspector to observe an average day in the nursery and talk to staff, children and parents to gather evidence of the standard of care and education being provided. At some point, there will be a learning walk around the setting, in which the manager can provide more information about the nursery, and joint observations, in which the inspector and the manager observe activities together.

At the end of the day, the inspector will give their judgement (outstanding/ good/ requires improvement/ inadequate) and explain why they have come to this decision. Strengths and weaknesses will be discussed. The full report will be available a few weeks later and will be published on the Ofsted website.

How long does an early years Ofsted inspection last?

The duration of an inspection will depend on the size of the nursery provider.

For nurseries that open for a full day, an Ofsted inspection will last at least six hours. With nurseries that offer restricted daily hours, an inspection usually takes about four hours.

What do Ofsted inspectors look for in nurseries?

In early years settings, Ofsted inspectors will evaluate:

  • overall effectiveness (the overall standard of education and care)
  • quality of education (curriculum intent, implementation and impact)
  • behaviour and attitudes (the children should be engaged in activities, respectful towards others, etc)
  • personal development (how the children’s social and emotional wellbeing/development is supported)
  • leadership and management (how leaders/managers are working to improve the quality of education and care, engaging with staff and parents, etc)

Each of these five areas is graded on a four-point scale:

  • Grade 1: outstanding
  • Grade 2: good
  • Grade 3: requires improvement
  • Grade 4: inadequate

Read the Early Years Inspection Handbook for guidance on what inspectors want to see in each of these areas – and how they make their judgements.

How do I prepare for an early years Ofsted inspection?

Ofsted advises that you should do nothing to prepare for an inspection. This is because they just want to observe how your nursery runs on a daily basis, without any additional effort made for the inspector. Ideally, you and your team should be inspection-ready at any time, as you will receive very little notice!

When the call does come through, let all staff know and make sure they understand what an inspection involves. Reassure them that there is nothing to worry about and they don’t need to do anything differently from usual. Then, check that the nursery looks presentable and ensure that you have important documents to hand (e.g. a list of current staff and their qualifications, DBS information, etc) for the next day.

It’s only natural to feel anxious before an inspection, but try to stay calm and think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate just how excellent your setting is.


More: Nursery Managers Guide –  What is CPD in Early Years?



Content Streams








Cost to attend


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest #NurseryManagersShow updates