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With Ofsted resuming full graded inspections from the 4th of May 2021, here is what you should know about the new changes to the early years inspection handbook.

A new section on ‘Inspection during the COVID-19 pandemic’

Ofsted has added in a whole new section on the additional considerations to be made by the inspectors during the pandemic.  The section lays out a list of temporary exceptions and changes the government has made to some aspects of the EYFS to help providers cope during this difficult time.

The modifications and disapplications are currently expected to be applicable till the 31st of August 2021. However, Ofsted has said it will keep this section under review and make changes as circumstances evolve and we emerge out of the pandemic. Here is a look at what these changes are.


1. Flexibility in meeting learning and development requirements

It is now enough that providers use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to meet these requirements during the pandemic instead of treating it as a must-do as set out before.


2. Not mandatory to complete the EYFSP assessment in 2021

Considering the additional pressures, uncertainties, and workload teachers face during the pandemic, Ofsted has said it is not compulsory to undertake the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) assessment in 2021.

However, as it is a valuable assessment for teachers and a critical tool to support children, it is requested that teachers make their best endeavours to complete the EYFSP in the summer term, if possible.


3. No 'Progress check at 2'

The requirement for 'Progress check for two' has been waived off during the pandemic.


4. Relaxation for staff qualification and ratio

Although the ratio requirements remain the same, there are some exceptions to the qualification the staff should hold to be counted in for ratio requirements.

The Ofsted advice is to ensure at least half of the staff (excluding the manager) hold a full and relevant Level-2 Qualification to meet the staff: children ratio. But this will not be a legal requirement.


5. Exceptions for Paediatric First Aid

If the children in your settings are between 2-5 years of age, you are expected to use your ‘best endeavours’ to bring in a person with a full Paediatric First Aid (PFA) certificate on-site when children are present. If you are unable to do that, despite your best efforts, you should carry out a written risk assessment and ensure someone with a current first aid at work or emergency PFA certification is on-site at all times.

However, if you have children below two years of age, it is still mandatory to have at least one person with a full PFA certificate on your premises at all times.


6. Timing of Inspections

Inspections will be carried out on-site wherever possible. However, some elements of the inspection might sometimes be carried out through video/phone calls. Inspectors will reach an agreement on this with you at the start of the inspection.

As Ofsted returns to full EIF inspections, they have announced they will take a proportionate and risk-based approach to prioritise who will be inspected first. The priority order will be providers:


  • Who were given a judgment of less than good at their last inspection (including those who received an interim visit in the autumn term)


  • Who have recently registered and not been inspected, and whose first inspection is overdue


  • Who were not inspected during the last inspection cycle due to the pause in routine inspection


Urgent inspections will continue to be carried out if there are significant concerns about a provider.

You can find more details on these COVID changes in Section 5-7 of the Early Years Inspection Handbook.  



If you use assistive technology or screen readers to access digital documents, you can now expect a better user experience as the new handbooks are now available in HTML web page formats in addition to the earlier PDF versions. You can access the new format here.


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