Questions Ofsted might ask you and your nursery staff

From staff to safeguarding, what Ofsted will be asking you during your early years inspection
A cartoon illustration in shades of blue of two early years educators preparing for Ofsted.
April 9, 2024
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In a rush? Here's the quick run-down:

  • In this article, we will help you understand the Ofsted inspection process
  • We will go through key areas of inquiry: safeguarding, staff management, curriculum implementation
  • We'll cover questions you can expect from Ofsted on how your setting supports diverse learners: SEND, EYPP, EAL
  • Read on for the importance of document preparation

Does the thought of an Ofsted inspector firing questions at you and your staff put you in a cold sweat? If this sounds like you, you're not alone.

But it needn't be this way.

We reviewed key documents and spoke with Ofsted to understand what to expect on inspection day. We've created this article to ensure you and your staff are well-prepared.

How to prepare your staff for Ofsted's questions

Ofsted takes a more hands-on approach to understand how your nursery operates. During the Ofsted inspection, the inspector will take a 'learning walk' through your Early Years setting. You will have the opportunity to explain why you do things the way you do. Ofsted inspections aren’t just a test of whether you know the Early Years handbook, but also whether your staff knows their stuff about day-to-day safeguarding, welfare requirements, and the EYFS.

Before we dive into more specific ways that you can help prepare your staff for Ofsted’s questions, I want to mention that one thing many managers forget to tell their staff is that it’s okay to not have all the answers after all we’re only human. As a manager, reminding your staff how to reply to a question they don’t know the answer to can help ease some pressure.

For instance, they can calmly inform the inspector they feel nervous and can't remember at the moment. Most importantly, remind them to tell the inspector how they would find out the information.

An early years educator in her classroom

1. The basics

Before your inspection, Ofsted will call you to let you know they are coming the next day. They will also tell you what documents to get ready.

Ofsted will usually call between 9:30 am and 2 pm the day before the inspection however on exceptional circumstances they can inspect any school without notice so it's always best to stay ready. The good news is, If you're running a high-quality nursery and already following the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), then you're in good shape and this is your time to shine.

The first call is simply to inform you of the inspection and make any practical arrangements such as organising time for meetings with key staff and which documents you should have ready for the inspection day. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions.

During the initial call, the inspection support admin will ask you some general questions about your setting such as:

  • How many children are enrolled at the nursery right now? How many are present in the setting?
  • Can you run me through the staff qualifications?
  • What are the staff’s DBS dates?
  • How many staff qualified are in pediatric first aid?
  • The setup of your school's governance
  • If you have any special education needs (SEN) or extra resources.

2. SEND, EYPP, and EAL

Teaching methods may vary based on the diverse needs on children. Let's discuss what kinds of questions Ofsted might ask you on how you support children who require additional assistance such as children with English as an additional language (EAL) and children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

What questions might Ofsted ask?

  • How do you take steps to provide an inclusive, broad, and varied curriculum for all children at your setting, including SEND, EAL, and recipients of EYPP?
  • How are you working with the relevant agencies about the SEND children in the setting?
  • How are you meeting the specific needs of your EAL children?
  • How are you using the funding you receive through the EYPP?
  • How do you monitor children's learning and development?

Understanding how any funding is being spent is an important one. More importantly, you want to be able to provide clear evidence about how the money you’ve spent is making a difference.‍

How to be Outstanding: The Ofsted Inspection Guide

How to be outstanding: The Ofsted Inspection Guide

Renewed and updated for 2023: Get ideas, tips, and advice on what it takes to be outstanding from Early Years managers and Ofsted’s Phil Minns and Wendy Ratcliff.

Download now

3. Staffing

How you are managing your staff is a crucial aspect of the inspection. After all, the effectiveness of your leadership and nursery management will form a significant part of your rating.

Your approach to managing your staff counts during the inspection. There will be a focus on how you lead your staff and run your nursery. The inspector will also inquire about your leadership from your staff and managers. Therefore, it's essential to have effective leadership initiatives in place and have them in place so you're confident of your abilities as a leader.

Want to brush up on your leadership skills?

Check out this article on Famly where we interview Early Years educator Kelly Hill. She shares 4 tips on how to be a better leader in the Early Years.

What questions might Ofsted ask?

  • What does your recruitment process look like?
  • How do you manage staff supervision and appraisals?
  • How are you monitoring staff performance?

An early years setting manager retrieving policies for Ofsted from a shelf full of folders

4. Safeguarding and prevent duty

This is the big one. We've heard time and time again that Ofsted will ask you a lot of questions about safeguarding.

The term safeguarding is used more broadly and according to the latest government guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (2023), it means:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • Ensuring the children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

What questions might Ofsted ask?

  • What are your obligations under Prevent duty?
  • What should you be looking out for if a child spends a long time away from the setting?
  • How do you report a safeguarding issue?
  • Do staff know what to do if the manager is not there?
  • What would be some warning signs for you that there was a safeguarding issue with one of your key children?
  • How do you safely and securely document safeguarding concerns?
  • What would you do if an armed person tried to enter the setting?
  • How do you work to promote British Values and support children's personal development and cultural capital?
  • What are your fire safety arrangements?
  • What arrangements are in place to receive and share records at points of transfer?
  • To what extent are you alert to the potential needs and vulnerabilities of the pupils that arrive at your school?
  • How do you inform receiving schools of any concerns or support you have provided?

Inspectors expect practitioners to prioritise safeguarding children in Early Years settings. It is crucial for practitioners to meet this standard. While it might feel a bit over the top to be talking about guns and preventative strategies, Ofsted is clear that it is important to be prepared for every “possible” outcome.

If you would like to read up on how your setting can improve on keeping children safe. Check out .gov’s website for guidance on keeping children safe in education.

While you’re there don’t forget to double-check those safeguarding documents.

What are the key principles of safeguarding?

Several key principles underpin safeguarding to ensure the welfare and happiness of children, mainly:

  • A child’s needs should be put first — always.
  • It's important to help and support children as early as possible before issues escalate and become more damaging.
  • Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility and everyone at a setting should act in a timely and coordinated manner to respond to any concerns about the welfare of a child.

The Early Years Foundation Stage sets the foundation of safeguarding measures for early years providers to follow. They are based on four overarching principles, including:

  • Children learn and develop best in an enabling environment
  • Children are unique, learn constantly, and can become resilient, capable, confident, and self-assured
  • Children learn and develop best in different ways and at different rates
  • Children learn strength and independence from positive relationships.

5. Policies and procedures

At your next Ofsted inspection, you may need to give some examples of your policies and procedures records and explain how they're implemented in your setting.

What questions might Ofsted ask?

  • How do the relevant policies support your safeguarding practice?
  • How do you keep parents updated on policy and procedures?
  • Can you talk me through one of your recent risk assessments?
  • What is your process for dealing with complaints?

Review recent incidents, accidents, complaints, and risk assessments to keep them in mind and refresh your memory. This is especially important if you have any recent incidents that were reported to Ofsted.

Double-check any legal policies related to your procedures and ensure they are up-to-date. ‍

An early years childs hands can be seen holding a pencil and colouring in a book. There are other coloured pencils scattered around

6. Understanding the EYFS and Monitoring Children's Development

This aspect of the inspection focuses on how your nursery supports and tracks the development of children according to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. Inspectors will assess how children have advanced in their learning journey since joining the nursery and how your team aids them in achieving developmental milestones.

During the inspection, Ofsted closely observes various activities and interactions between staff and children. They aim to identify strengths in the nursery's approach as well as areas that require improvement to provide better support for children's development.

What questions might Ofsted ask?

  • Run me through a specific observation you might make on a child.
  • What areas of the EYFS do you need to work on with certain cohorts at the moment?
  • What are some of the ways that you work on parent partnerships to enhance their child's learning?
  • How are you supporting children when they first start?
  • What is your process for planning and what's next for the children?
  • How do you make two-year progress checks?
  • How are you supporting the children's cultural capital?
  • How do you evaluate the overall effectiveness of your setting's EYFS curriculum?

Make sure that everyone (including yourself) has a great working knowledge of all 7 areas of learning, and how your setting's curriculum meets the requirements of the EYFS.‍

7. Documents. Documents. Documents

Ofsted's inspection handbook outlines the essential documents your setting should have prepared. However, they may also remind you of these requirements during the initial call. It's best to be prepared beforehand, so make sure your documents are in order!

What documents might Ofsted ask for?

  • Pediatric first-aid certificates
  • The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) records and any other documents summarising the checks on, and the vetting and employment arrangements of, all staff working at the setting
  • A list of current staff and their qualifications
  • A register/list showing the date of birth of all children on roll and routine staffing arrangements
  • A list of children present at the setting during the inspection (if not shown on the register)
  • All logs that record accidents, exclusions, children taken off roll, and incidents of poor behaviour
  • All logs of incidents of discrimination, including racist incidents
  • Complaints log and/or evidence of any complaints and their resolutions
  • Safeguarding and child protection policies
  • Fire-safety arrangements and other statutory policies relating to health and safety
  • A list of any referrals made to the local authority designated person for safeguarding, with brief details of the resolutions
  • Details of all children who are an open case to social care/children’s services and for whom there is a multi-agency plan

The big ideas

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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.