Sorry this has taken a while to put together - I've been waiting for more definitive answers from Ofsted - including a u-turn on one of the replies given during the meeting after further discussion within Ofsted the compliance team.

The delegates asked a number of questions which were answered by members of the Ofsted senior management team. Some of the questions were taken away for further investigation.

Question – a childminder asked a question about taking children back after maternity leave.

Ofsted replied that when a childminder stops working for maternity leave the children are no longer in her care so she cannot offer spaces for continuity of care because they have, in effect, left so they are new business when they come back.

I went back to Ofsted with a little more background to this question: this section of the EYFS (3.42) ‘exceptions to the usual ratios can be made, for example, when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or when caring for their own baby’ (EYFS, 2014) has always been taken to mean that childminders can continue to care for babies and other children already in their care when they have their own baby … and now we have the wording ‘for example’ (EYFS, 2017) which links to the DfE guidance** confirming: ‘These illustrated exceptions are not exhaustive examples’ and the words ‘continuity of care’ back in the EYFS 2017 from 3rd April it gives more validity to this understanding.

**DfE guidance -

Ofsted have consulted with the policy team and now state the following: ‘The policy team have confirmed the key issue here is that the childminder must be able to demonstrate that the needs of individual children are met. The childminder will need to carefully consider how they can meet the needs of the children and if they can do so they can take back the children they had before maternity leave thus maintaining continuity.

The EYFS contains the over-arching exception that applies to all childcare providers; as long as they can demonstrate they can meet the needs of all the children, they can make any exception to the ratios, as long as they do not exceed the maximum number.’


Question – do Ofsted inspect childminders on maternity leave?

Ofsted state: ‘At the end of an inspection cycle we contact all providers to ask about whether they are available for inspection and we did contact a number of childminders who were on maternity leave to remind them that if they have not been inspected in the whole of the cycle and did not have children for 3 years, then Ofsted can review their registration.’

This can, of course, lead to inspections while childminders are on maternity leave if they want to keep their registration – but we have been reassured by Ofsted that it will be the exception rather than the norm. Providers who are inspected without children will receive a ‘no children on roll’ inspection which is described from point 17 onwards here –


Question – group providers asked when should providers do a baseline assessment on new children?

Ofsted suggested that baseline assessments should be done as soon as a child starts with parents and the child’s key worker assessing what the child can do so the provider can track their progress from day 1.

Many group providers argue that it takes time for children to settle in and starting points / baselines should be done over teh child's first few weeks. However, the Ofsted reply was more that waiting might be wasting time...

Ofsted recognised in the presentation during the meeting that 2 of the biggest barriers to effective working partnerships with parents are: parents over-estimating what their child can do when providing evidence of home learning and parents lack of English when we are communicating with them. Ofsted will be looking to see how these barriers have been overcome during inspection.


Question – do providers need to be registered with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)?

Ofsted stated that there is a questionnaire on the ICO website – but yes we do need to register.


Question from a group provider – can planning be done differently in different rooms across the nursery?

Ofsted said yes, planning can be different across the rooms, including using electronic or paper methods, as long as settings can record progress and show differentiation for the individual child.

We note the Early Years Inspection handbook states in point 62, ‘Inspectors must not advocate a particular method of planning, teaching or assessment. They must not look for a preferred methodology but must record aspects of teaching and learning that they consider are effective and identify ways in which it can be improved.’


Question – a childminder asked a question in relation to photos of childminded children on social media and keeping them secure.

Ofsted stated that providers must have permission from children’s parents before putting photos of children on social media.

I went back to Ofsted with a little more background to the question: in response to 3 different things – ICO advice received when I rang them, LSCB advice during safeguarding training and recent Ofsted inspection actions received by some childminders in relation to photos of childminded children on open Facebook groups (linked to inspectors checking social media accounts before coming out for inspection and being concerned about photos of childminded children being publicly accessible and the possibility of them being misused) … my advice to providers has been that any photos of childminded children should be kept securely and only placed on secure groups or pages and shared only with those people who have a right to see them (for example, parents – after permission has been received in writing).

Ofsted state ‘The comments around use for social media are still relevant although I will pass this to my colleagues in the new early years delivery unit to ensure that early years inspectors are not telling providers what they can and cannot do. The EYFS does not state requirements about the use of social media images. This is something that must be agreed between the provider and parents under the policy of working in partnership.

It may also be the case that an individual LADO has a particular view about the use of social media. Again we will ask providers to ensure that they are meeting the policies of their LSCB. It is important to take account of the impact of social media and confidentiality of a children details their and family which would be looked at inspection. Children’s details must be kept confidential and secure, however if the childminder and parent agree that pictures can be shared via the use of social media and it does not breach confidentiality then it is not a matter for Ofsted.’


Question – a childminder asked about caring for 5 children including 2 babies at a time.

Ofsted replied during the meeting that the childminder should take advice from Ofsted.

I went back to Ofsted with a little more background to this question: my advice to colleagues has always been that, while it might be theoretically ok to have 5 children, they have to manage the variation well and ensure every child is receiving a high quality learning experience and appropriate care and it is very hard to do this effectively and safely if they have 5 children when working on their own. The reason I give this reply is because I have seen a lot of colleagues downgraded during inspection when they have 5 on their own due to being ‘over ratio’ – and as we have discussed during Ofsted Big Conversation meetings previously, the most likely reason is because they are not managing the variation well.

We have a secondary concern in that Ofsted no longer give advice about ratios. Whether we ring or email the reply is always (to précis) ‘risk assess and read the EYFS’.

Ofsted stated, ‘With regard to the issues about continuity of care if we apply the principles below and if they can demonstrate continuity of care they can take two babies under 1. The policy team have concurred that if the childminder can demonstrate she can meet the needs of both babies she can have two under one.

However the exemptions about consistency in care arrangements also apply. Furthermore, paragraph 3.30 (EYFS 2017) contains the over-arching exception that applies to all childcare providers, including childminders, which is that as long as they can demonstrate they can meet the needs of all the children, they can make any exception to the ratios (other than to exceed the maximum number – because this is a ‘maximum’ not a ‘ratio’). So, they could potentially take three, four, five babies under one, providing they can demonstrate they can meet all their needs. The ratios and maximum numbers stated in the EYFS are statutory requirements and therefore are required by law; childminders must adhere to the ratios and maximum number of children at all times.’

The issue here is always going to be what the inspector observes during inspection and whether the inspector thinks the childminder is managing the variation well. Personally, having seen too many colleagues downgraded for being 'over ratio' with 5 children under 5, I will continue to advise caution.

I hope you find these questions and Ofsted’s replies useful!