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Following the announcement by Ofsted that new settings will be inspected within 30 months of opening rather than 7 months, concerns have been raised about jeopardising quality of care. The following explains why these changes have been made and how Ofsted will ensure that quality of care is maintained in the new settings.

The background

Before September 2012, Ofsted’s registration process allowed them to grant registrations with conditions, or to set actions before registration could be completed. These would be set in response to any issues identified by inspectors at a registration visit. The only way that Ofsted could ensure that conditions had been fulfilled and / or actions carried out was to carry out an inspection very soon after registration. These inspections became known as post-registration inspections.

What then changed in 2012?

From September 2012, Ofsted removed conditions and stopped setting actions, and the EYFS removed any post-registration requirements. In other words, during registration visits, Ofsted would judge a provider to either be ready to look after children, or not – and if they were not, they would have to withdraw their registration application or be refused registration. If they were ready, they would then begin the normal inspection cycle. However, before actually removing post-registration inspections, Ofsted wanted to allow time for the new arrangements to bed in fully, and ensure providers and inspectors were aware of what this meant.

 What has changed recently?

Ofsted has now extended the seven-month timeframe for post-registration inspections to allow for more proportionate inspection activity. So, each setting will receive their first inspection within 30-months of registration. The decision was based on evidence of the impact of the changes in September 2012:

  • many more providers withdrawing applications part-way through, when it became clear to them during the registration visit from the inspector that they were not ready to look after children;
  • 79% of childminders who registered since these new arrangements took effect were judged as good or outstanding at their first inspection, compared to 73% who registered before this change;
  • Where applicants did continue with registration, refusals rose. But then the proportion of applicants whose registration was refused fell by almost four per cent in the year following these changes.

What other safeguards are there?

  • Ofsted already has a risk assessment process, which kicks in whenever there is doubt about the quality of a provider (e.g. any safeguarding issues or local intelligence). This can lead to a priority inspection within 7 days, or a same-day urgent investigation visit.
  • In any case, serious safeguarding concerns that are raised with Ofsted will be referred to the statutory child protection authorities within two hours of being received by Oftsed.
  • New providers are on the agenda to be discussed with local authority officers during routine Ofsted visits. This provides more robust local intelligence on new settings than previously, and enhances the daily data that Ofsted shares with local authorities on newly-registered providers and those applying for registration.
  • Ofsted’s registration system automatically checks for, and flags, any matches between new registration applications and previously-registered individuals, addresses and companies.

More information about Ofsted’s registration process can be found here and any questions should be directed to EY-Childcare@ofsted.gov.uk