The questions Ofsted might ask you and your nursery team

From staff to safeguarding, what Ofsted will be asking you during your early years inspection
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The questions Ofsted might ask you and your nursery team

January 16, 2022

From staff to safeguarding, what Ofsted will be asking you during your early years inspection

From staff to safeguarding, what Ofsted will be asking you during your early years inspection
Matt Arnerich
January 16, 2022
A cartoon illustration in shades of blue of two early years educators preparing for Ofsted.
January 16, 2022
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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 for Ofsted's questions

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 :

  • Day-to-day safeguarding and welfare requirements,
  • the EYFS,
  • As well as 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 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.

An early years educator in her classroom

1. The basics

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.

What questions might Ofsted 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?

2. SEND, EYPP, and EAL

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.

What questions might Ofsted 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?

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 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.

Get this guide

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 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?
  • Do you run any peer-to-peer observations?

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.

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 safeguarding is something that will take up a lot of the Ofsted questions that you’ll be asked.

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? 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?

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!

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

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.

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

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. 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.

What questions might Ofsted 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?

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

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

What documents might Ofsted ask for?

  • 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. Self-evaluation for Ofsted

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.

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.

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Find out below how Hungry Caterpillars got started with Famly so easily, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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Find out below how Hungry Caterpillars got started with Famly so easily, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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Find out below how Hungry Caterpillars got started with Famly so easily, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.