13th June 2023 All Posts

8 Common Misconceptions about Ofsted Inspections in Early Years Education

After six years of experience working as an early years practitioner, I know first-hand that Ofsted inspections cause frantic preparation and panic, especially with the constant myths that are spread to cause fear and worry among those that work in the early years sector. It is essential to understand that Ofsted is not trying to trick you or catch you out, they simply want to see childcare settings operate as they normally would. 

Preparing for an Ofsted inspection can feel daunting, not only for the nursery manager but practitioners too. In the past, I’ve witnessed managers creating Ofsted checklists which cover everything from checking the inspector in to offering them a cup of tea, to even showing display boards on what ‘British values’ mean to your setting. This level of panic is only heightened by the numerous rumours and myths that are spread like wildfire to increase levels of worry and anxiety throughout the sector.

I have researched Ofsted’s guidance on myth-busting. In this blog, I will dive into 8 common misconceptions about Ofsted inspections to help you prepare for future ones without additional fears and worries.

1. Ofsted cannot carry out inspections without any notice

A common misconception about the notice period before inspections is that Ofsted cannot carry out inspections without notice. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Ofsted may choose to carry out an inspection without a notice period in circumstances where someone has raised concerns about a setting. Although this may sometimes be the case, it is not exclusive as each situation is different.

2. Ofsted wants to see as much paperwork as possible

In my previous role, I witnessed nursery managers preparing a folder of paperwork ready for their Ofsted inspection. Thankfully, this is not necessary as Ofsted does not want to see a particular amount or type of paperwork during an inspection. You should use whatever approach to paperwork suits your setting and file this in the best way for you. Each inspection is different and inspectors will only ask to see evidence they consider appropriate to that individual setting, usually determined by what has been observed of the teaching and learning throughout the inspection.

The documents noted on pages 9-10 of the Early Years Inspection Handbook are the ones most likely to be requested by the inspector.

3. During an inspection, Ofsted expects the manager to be available at all times to speak with the inspector.

Although an Ofsted inspector will likely want to talk to a manager, they do not expect managers to be immediately available. It is important to remember that inspectors want to see your setting operating as they would on any other day, and they will work around normal timetables. Meetings with managers will take place at a time that is convenient during the inspection.

4. Ofsted prefers settings to use paper assessments rather than electronically-recorded assessments.

Once again this is not the case. There is no recommended way of conducting or recording assessments, as long as it is effective and helps children’s learning, development and progress.

Paragraph 2.2 of the EYFS framework sets out the requirements for paperwork related to assessment. You should not need to take prolonged breaks from interacting with children in order to carry out assessments, and assessments should not require excessive paperwork.

5. Do I need to produce a curriculum map?

No, you are not required to produce a curriculum map. The inspection handbook for registered early years providers makes it clear that curriculum planning does not need to be in any specific format.

The EYFS’s educational programmes provide the framework for the curriculum. It is for providers to decide how to expand, extend and broaden these. It is for you to decide what guidance to use when developing and shaping your curriculum, and how to talk about that information with inspectors. Some providers may choose to map this out, but others may present what they do in a different way.

Inspectors will want to know how leaders design an ambitious and well-sequenced curriculum that prepares children well for the next stage of their education. Providers will be asked questions such as:

  • what do they want children to learn and why
  • how they are helping children know more and remember more
  • how do they measure this success

We discuss this concept more in our free Ofsted Inspection guide.

Ofsted Inspections- Free Download

In this guide, we discuss how to prepare for an Ofsted inspection, the 3 I’s, Ofsted’s key focuses in 2023 and more to help you carry out the day as normal to reduce additional pressure on you and your staff to perform.

6. Inspectors expect to see the progress of a child tracked against ‘Development Matters’?

This is not true, it is up to you how you assess children’s progress. Inspectors will not ask to see any internal tracking or assessment information. The inspection handbook sets out how inspectors gather evidence through observation and discussion during an inspection.

Ofsted inspects in line with the principles and requirements of the EYFS. Some providers find it helpful to use ‘Development Matters’, but you are not inspected against this, as it is non-statutory guidance. 

When writing inspection reports, inspectors will not usually refer to the specific guidance you have chosen to use, but rather to how well you are providing the curriculum for children. They will assess this using evidence gathered from discussions and observations to judge the overall quality of the curriculum provided for children.

7. Only managers can attend the feedback session at the end of an inspection.

The feedback session is confidential until the final report is published, but other staff can be included in the session where it is beneficial.

8. Making a complaint about an inspection will go against a childcare setting the next time it is inspected.

Ofsted does not take into account any past complaints lodged by a setting when making inspection judgements. Inspectors always act fairly and without bias, and their judgments are based solely on evidence. Inspection reports are also quality assured by other inspectors before they are finalised to confirm that evidence firmly supports judgements.

Remember Ofsted inspections are a partnership between you and the inspector and the result of your inspection should accurately reflect the quality of the service you offer. Although Ofsted inspections are daunting it is in everyone’s best interest that they help deliver a good quality of care for all young children.

It is important that the inspection process is as clear as possible to help reduce greater anxiety around the topic. Have you come across any myths about Ofsted inspections that you would like to share with like-minded individuals?

Join the Connect Community

Join our Connect Community Facebook group and interact with the wonderful community of Connect Childcare users to ask questions, post ideas, get useful advice and generally share the joy of childcare with a like-minded group.
Share this article
About the Author

Content Marketing Executive at Connect Childcare