Preparing for Ofsted
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”
(Alexander Graham Bell)
“Please, don’t overload your teams with preparatory work ‘for Ofsted’. Just don’t do it. And don’t run ‘mocksteds’. They are a waste of precious time”. Check out Amanda Spielman’s full address to #ASCL2022 @Ofstednews (Twitter).
When you get ‘the call’, talk with the inspector about what the focus is going to be so that you have a clearer understanding of what Ofsted will be looking for in your EYFS setting. As you prepare, involve all members of your early years setting and make sure they know what to expect. Talk to everyone about the main areas Ofsted will likely look for in your EYFS setting inspectors will talk with everyone about your settings culture in relation to pupils' behaviour, the vision, support for staff and other systems such as safeguarding.
Providing staff with a simple checklist may be useful to check their knowledge and prepare them for potential questions. However, one thing many managers forget to tell their staff is what to say when they don’t know an answer. Nerves can sometimes get the better of us, staff would need to calmly tell the inspector that they are feeling a little nervous and can’t remember right now. More importantly though they would need to know where and how to find out that information, as understanding how to get the information is just as good as having it to mind in the moment. Ensuring staff are relaxed and not overwhelmed is key.
Well-being should not be overlooked. A focus on this may be a good idea in staff meetings and in supervisions. Ofsted may give staff opportunities to discuss workload and well-being in the form of questionnaires.
If you have a setting action audit plan it will be great to show the inspector, highlighting your reflections and where you want to improve. This will help clarify exactly what you want to get across to the inspector.
As well as having a few key points, topics and questions to reflect upon, demonstrating that you have addressed any issues in previous Ofsted reports will be a necessary requirement, but most importantly remember having a welcoming, warm environment where there are positive, respectful relationships and ‘knowing the children well’ will be what makes the difference between a good and poor inspection.
- What is ‘high quality’ – and how do we deliver this in our setting?
- The recipients of this high-quality care and education are the children – what’s it like to be a child at this setting?
- How do we measure the impact of this quality – this is what Ofsted will be doing, how do we measure impact for ourselves?
- What do we rate ourselves at? – Self-evaluation time.
- Is this high-quality care and education watertight and consistent – do all staff understand and can they demonstrate it every day? What is the new focus of the inspection?
What is the focus on Early Years inspections now?
- Teaching and learning – supporting children’s progress
- Quality of learning
- Intent – what do you intend doing today?
- Implementation – how will you do it?
- Impact – what changes have you made to outcomes for children?
- Cultural Capital – giving children the best possible start
- Vocabulary and reading – teaching children new words
The judgements in the new framework cover:
- Quality of education – teaching, learning, assessment, 2-year progress check, 7 areas of learning and curriculum
- Behaviour and attitudes – supporting behaviour, attitudes to learning
- Personal development – learning characteristics, PSED
- Leadership and management – There is a focus on staff wellbeing in this section.
- Overall effectiveness
What paperwork will I need?
See the Ofsted handbook for a list of documents to show and ensure policies and procedures are to hand Government/Publications/Early-Years-Inspection-Handbook Ofsted have said that they are reducing paperwork expectations and the focus of inspection will be on practice. Inspectors should not ask to see any paperwork beyond the requirements of the EYFS and the EYFS says in requirement 2.2: "Paperwork should be limited to that which is absolutely necessary to promote children’s successful learning and development.
Do I still have to track children’s progress?
Yes – it is important to track children’s progress from starting points – but the focus will be on explaining how children are learning, developing and making progress, not on any paperwork or online systems you use and if your tracking is too complicated it might go against you during inspection.
Will the inspector want to look at children's files?
It depends on the inspector – some do, and some don’t, but they have said they would rather watch and listen to us and ask us questions than focus on paperwork.
During the inspection
Ofsted will gather much of their evidence through discussion with you and your staff (if you have them).
The inspector might ask you, staff, parents and children questions about, for example:
- Safeguarding procedures
- The activities provided
- Parent opinions on the service you provide
- Assessment and how you are building on children’s current skills and knowledge
- Knowledge and understanding of your EYFS curriculum
- How children are taught (Teaching is described by Ofsted as communicating, modelling language, showing, explaining, demonstrating, exploring ideas, encouraging, questioning, recalling, providing a narrative for what they are doing, facilitating and setting challenges).
- Why the environment and resources are set up as they are
- How reading to children develops language
- Cultural Capital – how children’s experiences help them to build on home and family learning
- Self-evaluation and action planning
- The inspector is likely to track a child and then ask their key person about the child’s learning, development and progress and will expect the provider to clearly explain how they are helping the child to make the best progress.
It is worth noting that every staff member needs to know about their key children – what I call ‘having a story about every child in your head’… and every staff member needs to be confident when explaining who they would approach if they had a concern about a child or other staff member.
Reading – a big focus on the 2019 Inspection Framework – What might they ask?
- How do you teach reading?
- How do you teach phonics? Do you use a particular scheme?
- What do you think the positives of this scheme are?
- Is there anything that you could do to improve phonics?
- How often do the children read?
- How are their books matched to their phonic ability?
- How do you ensure that children have opportunities to read in other areas of the curriculum?
Progression – What they might ask?
Internal assessment/tracking data – inspectors won’t ask to see this, but you can use it as evidence to demonstrate a point.
- What does your on-entry data tell you about your children – how do you address this?
- How do you know what a child’s next steps are?
SEND/EYPP/EAL – What they might ask?
- How do you take steps to include the SEN children within the normal activities at the setting?
- How are you working with the relevant agencies with regards to the SEN 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 the impact of interventions?
Safeguarding and Prevent – What might they ask?
- What do you do to ensure you have thorough safeguarding policies in place?
- How do you work to promote the British Values?
- 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? What 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?
- What would you do if someone with a gun was outside your setting (Lockdown)?
This resource can be used for training purposes.
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, as well as the policies and procedures that were followed.
On a final note…
Remember most importantly, be honest and confident! Ofsted does not always ask the questions you expect, and the ones mentioned above are just a few to consider. Be sure to take as many opportunities as possible to flaunt the wonderful things you do.
“Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre”
Further reading, support and guidance:
Refer to the Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage to ensure you meet all the standards (mandatory from September 2021). Link EYFS Framework
Here is a free resource: https://thirdspacelearning.com/resources/resource-ofsted-deep-dive-questions/
Blog written by Sarah Detheridge - ©Early Years Staffroom