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

Ofsted

March 4
11:10 2021

On 17 March 2020, 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

Schools and further education

Remote monitoring inspections of schools graded inadequate or requires improvement and further education providers began on 25 January, with a particular focus on how well children and learners are being educated remotely. These inspections are not graded.

We will pause our inspections of schools and colleges for the week beginning 8 March, while they are focused on reopening to all pupils.

For the rest of the term, we will continue to carry out our monitoring inspections remotely by default (with the exception of new provider monitoring visits to further education providers, which require site visits). However, we will carry out on-site inspections if we have any immediate concerns for example, about safeguarding or the leadership of a school.

Remote monitoring inspections of maintained schools and academies will normally last for one day and involve 2 HMI.

Registered early years and social care provision

We continue to plan for a safe and phased return to routine inspection for early years providers. We paused our programme of assurance inspections in January this year because of national restrictions. We are planning to return to full graded inspections as soon as we can in the summer term. Therefore, we have decided not to restart assurance inspections this term as restrictions ease, but we will keep these plans under review.

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 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 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.

Unregistered schools

Our inspections of unregistered schools are criminal investigations of settings that put children at significant risk. Each case is individually risk assessed and, where required, all inspections are on site. This is because remote inspection does not give us the scope to gather evidence in line with the relevant criminal investigation standards.

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 until 8 March. 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 discussing the form and timing of inspections in the summer term and beyond with government and stakeholders.

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 enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk.

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:

Ofsted resumed inspecting providers on the Childcare Register and began a programme of visits in September 2020. All other routine inspections are suspended. However, we continue our important regulatory work to help maintain social care (SC) provision for the most vulnerable children, and the registration of vital early years (EY) services. This includes reviewing notifications from providers and other information we receive.

We have temporarily adjusted our regulatory activity to focus on:

  • provision that causes us concern
  • the need to register new provision
  • expansion to existing provision

Off-site activity

We will decide what needs to be done on or off site on a case-by-case basis, considering the lines of enquiry and the apparent level of risk.

The inspector may ask the provider to share more electronic evidence than usual. This evidence will vary, but may include:

  • photographs of premises such as repairs and decoration (and/or having a tour of the building through a video call)
  • safety certificates
  • confirmation of building works, such as invoices
  • updated policies
  • updated action plans
  • staffing lists to confirm that the provider has enough staff to re-open
  • staff training records and/or a careful risk assessment and plan for training (including e-learning, given the current circumstances)

On-site visits to social care providers

In addition to assurance visits, we may carry out on-site visits to social care providers when:

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