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The Questions Ofsted Might Ask You and Your Nursery Team

January 16, 2022

And how to answer them.

And how to answer them.
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Does the thought of an Ofsted inspector firing questions at you and your team put you in a cold sweat? In the Early Years, if you feel like this, you're not alone.

But it needn't be this way.

Ofsted inspection time is a stressful time for any Early Years manager, but proper preparation can help to ease your stress and feel ready for every single Ofsted question that the inspector will ask you.

We’ve looked into all the key documents, as well as chatted to Ofsted themselves, to find out what you can expect and how to prepare yourself and your staff for inspection day.

How to prepare your staff

Ofsted inspections aren’t just a test of whether you know the Early Years inspection handbook.

The learning walk is now a major part of the inspection, where the inspector will be walking through your setting, giving you the chance to explain why you do everything the way you do. Instead of a long talk with leadership and management in the office, this is now one of the ways Ofsted gather evidence of what it's like to be a child at your setting.

This is where your meetings and staff training really gets tested, and your staff are going to need to know their stuff on day-to-day safeguarding and welfare requirements, the EYFS, and anything that might fall specifically under their role.

But one thing many managers forget to tell their staff is what to do if they don’t know.

Under the nerves, it’s easy to feel panicky, and if you are having a brain freeze, you need to calmly tell the inspector that you’re feeling a little nervous, and can’t remember right now.

Even more important, is that the staff tell the inspector how they would find out. In many ways, understanding how to get the information they need is just as good as having it in mind in the moment.

Trust in your training and give your staff the right tools to deal with the pressure and they’re going to be fine.

1. The basics

Let’s kick it off with the basics…

What might they ask?

  • 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?
  • Can I see today’s register?
  • How many staff qualified are in paediatric first aid?

What do I need to prepare?

These ones shouldn’t be complicated, but it is important that you know where to find this information quickly. The list that we’ve included in the documents section should give you a good indication of what you’ll need, but really it’s the sort of stuff you’re likely to have to hand anyway.

2. SEND, EYPP, and EAL

In many ways, it’s ridiculous to lump these three massively different groups together. But here we’re just talking about how you approach questions about individual child cases, and what you’re doing with any funding you might be receiving.

What might they ask?

  • How do you take steps to provide an inclusive, broad, and varied curriculum for all children at the setting, including SEND, EAL, and recipients of EYPP?
  • How are you working with the relevant agencies with regards to the SEND children in the setting?
  • How are you meeting the specific needs of your EAL children?
  • How is the funding you receive through the EYPP being used in the setting?
  • How do you monitor these children's learning and development and measure the impact of the strategies you have in place?

What do I need to prepare?

Most of these are only going to be for you, the SENDCo or perhaps a specific child’s key person. If you have a large cohort of any of these groups, it’s likely to be a key feature of the Ofsted questions that you’re going to be asked.

Understanding how any funding is being spent is an important one, and you’ll want to really think about how the money you’ve spent is making a difference.

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 end up forming a significant part of your rating.

What might they ask?

  • What does your recruitment process look like?
  • How do you manage staff supervision and appraisals?
  • How are you monitoring staff performance?
  • Do you run any peer-to-peer observations?

What do I need to prepare?

Away from the children specifically, how the manager supports staff development is likely to feature heavily in the Ofsted questions that you’re being asked.

They’ll be asking your staff about your leadership too, so it matters that any initiatives you have really are in place. You can't just tell your team you're going to do something because the inspection is around the corner - staff supervision and your provision's professional development programme should be embedded.

Consider carefully whether there are any holes in your recruitment process, recruitment records, staff qualifications, deployment, staff training, or staff members' supervision schedule.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to more effectively manage your team, you can download our free guide with skills, activities and interviews on managing a successful team.

4. Safeguarding and Prevent Duty

This is the big one. We’ve heard time and time again that safeguarding is something that will take up a lot of the Ofsted questions that you’ll be asked.

What might they 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? Who is the Local Authority Designated Person? 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 the British Values and support children's personal development and cultural capital?
  • What are your fire safety arrangements?

What do I need to prepare?

This is probably where inspectors have the most expectation from the practitioners themselves as safeguarding children should be the highest priority for Early Years settings. This is where your preparation and training will really matter.

It might seem a bit over the top to be talking about guns and serious Prevent strategies, but Ofsted is clear that these are important specifically because it could happen to anyone. That’s why you will need to be prepared for every outcome.

Check and double-check those safeguarding documents!

5. Policies and procedures

It might be a bit of a slog, but you may need to give some examples of your policies and procedures records at your next inspection.

What might they 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?
  • What happened the last time you had to fill out an accident or incident form?

What do I need to prepare?

It goes without saying that you need to make sure everything is in tip-top shape well in advance of Ofsted coming around - don't wait for the telephone call!

Think about the most recent instance of something and make sure you’ve refreshed your memory with all of the details of the incidents, whether it’s accidents, complaints, or risk assessments. If any staff were involved it may well be worth running it through briefly with them too.

You could also refresh your knowledge of any statutory policies relating to your own policies and procedures and make sure they're still current and aligned.

6. The EYFS and supporting and monitoring children's development

This is another one that’s likely to involve your staff, particularly around their key children and how they observe them. However, there are a few ways the inspector may be gathering evidence throughout the inspection day.

The inspector may look at some children's learning journeys, to gauge what children were like when they started, where they are now, and how you're supporting them to get where you want them to be.

The Ofsted inspector may do joint observations with you (the nursery manager) of activities, care routines, and staff's interactions, to see if you have a good understanding of where practitioners' knowledge is good, or what needs improving.

What might they ask?

  • Run me through a specific observation you might make on a child.
  • How are you supporting child development in the setting?
  • 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?

What do I need to prepare?

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.

You should also take a look at your progress reports or assessments and be realistic about what you need to work on in the setting. The inspectors know that running a nursery is a work in progress and that every cohort is different. You don’t have to have it all sorted out. What’s more important is that you know the areas that need work and have plans in place to do just that.

7. Documents. Documents. Documents

Documents are one of the big headaches for nursery managers. What do I need to have? Do I need an Ofsted folder? Does it need to be colour-coded, sticky-noted, organisation perfection?

The truth is, Ofsted are very clear in their inspection handbook on what inspectors should expect providers to have at the ready.

For your benefit, here’s the full list of all the relevant documentation that Ofsted expect:

  • paediatric 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

8. Two more important bits

After some reflection and feedback, we wanted to add a few important notes to this article, on the Self-Evaluation Form (SEF) and what you need to know about incidents reported to Ofsted.

Incidents Reported
Have you had any incidents reported to Ofsted recently? If so, this is something you and all your staff are going to need to be aware of before the inspection.

They’re not going to mention the specific incident, but it’s highly likely that they will run through a similar scenario with the staff to find out what they would do in the situation now. It’s a way of checking that the staff have the proper understanding and procedures in place without referencing the specific incident.

In essence, you just need to make sure you’ve briefed all your staff on the proper practice and procedures around anything that’s been reported to Ofsted. Keep it broad, and talk generally about the type of incident rather than the particular case.

One thing that Ofsted is very clear on, is that settings do not need to have an SEF any more.

However, we do know that many Outstanding settings choose to use some form of self evaluation, and Ofsted do expect that staff and managers should be able to answer questions about the quality of care you’re providing and how well the setting is meeting the children’s needs.

For many, completing regular SEFs is the best way to have a clear understanding of where the setting is and where work needs to be done.

Whether you choose to have an SEF or not, make sure you can explain exactly how you are reflecting on all aspects of your setting, and what steps you are putting in place to work on and improve those areas that you think need it.

The big ideas

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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.

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