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.
The 'learning walk' through the setting is a major part of the inspection, where the inspector will give 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 one of the ways Ofsted gathers evidence of what it's like to be a child at your setting.
Ofsted inspections aren’t just a test of whether you know the Early Years inspection handbook, but your staff are going to need to know their stuff about :
But one thing many managers forget to tell their staff is what to do if they don’t know the answer to a question the Ofsted inspector asks.
Reassure your team that the best thing to do is tell calmly tell the inspector that they’re feeling a little nervous, and can’t remember right now. Most importantly, remind them to tell the inspector how they would find out the information asked for.
Despite the nerves of inspection day, Ofsted aren't trying to catch out anyone in your team. Give them the right tools to deal with the pressure and they’ll be fine.
Some of this will be covered when you get 'The Call' the day before your inspection, so you'll have an idea of the information and documents to have at the ready. To get the day off to a smooth start, make you can access this information easily.
Obviously, your approaches to teaching and learning for individual groups will differ, but we’re just talking about how you approach questions about children receiving extra support and what you’re doing with any funding you might be receiving.
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.
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.
The inspector will 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.
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.
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. While it might feel a bit over the top to be talking about guns and Prevent strategies, Ofsted is clear that these are important. That’s why you will need to be prepared for every outcome.
Check and double-check those safeguarding documents!
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.
Refresh your memory with the details of any recent incidents, accidents, complaints, or risk assessments so you have them fresh in your mind. This is especially important if you have any recent incidents that were reported to Ofsted. If any staff were involved, it may well be worth running it through briefly with them too.
Your inspector might not 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.
Double-check any statutory policies relating to your own policies and procedures and make sure they're still current and aligned.
This is another one that’s likely to involve your staff, particularly around their key children and how they observe them. 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 interactions, to see if you have a good understanding of where practitioners' knowledge is good, or what needs improving.
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.
Ofsted are very clear in their inspection handbook on what inspectors should expect providers to have at the ready.
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 self-evaluation is the best way to have a clear understanding of where the setting is and where work needs to be done.
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.
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.