Detailed guide: Ofsted: coronavirus (COVID-19) rolling update


January 22
10:22 2021

On 17 March, all routine inspections of schools, further education, early years and social care providers were suspended. Urgent inspections where specific concerns have been raised are still going ahead. This allows us to prioritise the immediate safety of children where necessary. As far as we are able, we are continuing our important regulatory work.

We have also updated our deferral policy, including a section on deferrals during this period.

We are in daily contact with the Department for Education (DfE) to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact across education and social care.

Current activity

We will carry out all planned inspection activity remotely until after the February half term.

Schools and further education

Remote inspections of schools and further education providers will begin from 25 January, with a particular focus on how well children and learners are being educated remotely. We will inspect schools rated inadequate or requires improvement as planned, but we will also follow up on complaints raised by parents across all grades of school in order to resolve issues. As these inspections will not involve an on-site visit, they will be unable to cover the full scope of a monitoring inspection. We will publish details of the inspection process shortly.

We will continue to undertake on-site inspections if we have immediate concerns for example about safeguarding, the leadership of a school or a failure to provide education to children.

Registered early years and social care provision

We will pause assurance inspections to early years settings until after the February half term.

However, we will continue with our vital regulatory work in early years and childrens social care. This work will sometimes require on-site visits, which will be risk-assessed based on the nature of the premises and the urgency of the work. As always, the safety and well-being of children is our first priority and we will take urgent action where we have concerns.

We will:

  • continue with on-site visits where we have urgent safeguarding concerns
  • continue with assurance visits to independent fostering agencies, which we will usually be able to carry out remotely
  • carry out monitoring visits, as necessary, to childrens homes and other settings. Monitoring visits will continue to be a combination of on site/off site/blended as appropriate
  • continue with our social care registration work, carefully risk assessed in line with government guidance

We will keep these plans under review. As with all visits, we will put considerable measures in place to ensure the safety of all concerned.

As routine inspections are currently suspended, and a providers next inspection date is not currently known, we may carry out further on- or off-site regulatory work if we have information that we were holding for the next inspection. We will publish an outcome summary if we need to take any action.

Remote education

The DfE has set out requirements for schools to provide high-quality remote education when children are unable to attend school.

We will look at how well schools are educating pupils in the current circumstances which for most pupils means being educated remotely. We will also consider complaints made by parents about remote education to help resolve issues and make sure children are being well served. If parents feel their childs school is not providing suitable remote education, they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher. If issues are not resolved, parents can report the matter to Ofsted.

We have published a short guide on what works well in remote education.

Our phased return to inspection

We are not planning to carry out graded inspections of education or social care providers before the summer term 2021.

Maintained schools and academies

Routine inspections, which result in a school being awarded a new grade or being confirmed in its current grade, will resume in the summer term.

Independent schools

Throughout the spring term, all inspections will be at the request of the Department for Education (DfE). See January 2021: non-association independent schools for more information.

Routine inspections will resume in the summer term.

Further education and skills

Full graded inspections will resume in the summer term.

Interim education visits to prisons will start in January, to support and challenge prisons to return to full programmes of education and skills activities following COVID-19 restrictions. These will be carried out remotely.

Early years

Routine graded inspections will resume in the summer term of 2021.

Childrens social care

From January, we will resume focused visits to local authority childrens services. These visits will not result in a graded judgement.

Routine inspection under the inspection of local authority childrens services (ILACS) framework will begin from April. We will prioritise inadequate local authorities that are ready for re-inspection, and authorities where there are concerns.

We will continue with assurance visits under the social care common inspection framework (SCCIF) until April, when routine inspections will resume.

Area special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

From January we will resume joint interim visits with the Care Quality Commission. These visits aim to support improvement and will not result in a published letter or graded judgement.

Initial teacher education (ITE)

From April 2021, Ofsted will introduce full graded inspections under the new ITE inspection framework.

From January 2021, we will carry out research into how COVID-19 has affected the provision of ITE. This will result in a single published report before the start of full inspections from April 2021.

Sending us documents and forms

Please use our online forms, if possible, for:

If we have previously asked you to post documents to us, please either scan or photograph them and send with your unique reference number (URN) to

You can find your URN on your registration, your inspection report(s), and on your Ofsted reports page.

Due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), there are likely to be delays in reviewing incoming post.

Data from local authorities

We have considered whether we should minimise, defer or cancel the data collections we ask local authorities to give us, in order to reduce the burden on them during this time. As a result, we have adjusted collection timescales to account for the beginning of lockdown and the need for emergency planning time, and we have reduced the amount of data we request. We do not anticipate a delay in the publication of any social care national statistics as a result of these changes.

Also, local authorities are required to provide data on individual children when we need to carry out an emergency inspection due to safeguarding concerns.

Regulatory activity and urgent monitoring visits

This section applies only to:

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