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Ofsted Inspection Hacks: Your Key to Acing the Visit!

Ofsted Inspection Hacks: Your Key to Acing the Visit!

Ofsted inspections are part of a necessary inspection programme for all early years establishments, including all nurseries, schools and childminders in England. Other parts of the UK are inspected as well, but by other inspection bodies. Nursery managers and school leaders often dread an Ofsted visit! However, with proper planning, inspections can be a great opportunity to show off just how good your early years provision is.

The key here is planning and preparation. Most Ofsted inspections are conducted with a minimum of 24 hours’ notice, although there are times when Ofsted can legally turn up for an emergency inspection if they have received information that suggests that the setting is either not safe for children, or is not fulfilling its legal and statutory duties.

The “Early years inspection handbook for Ofsted-registered provision” sets out how Ofsted will inspect Ofsted-registered early years providers and as such, is the first port of call for all nurseries in England who want to prepare well for their Ofsted visit. In addition, settings should look at and be familiar with the following which are particularly relevant to safeguarding:

  • “Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings’”
  • ‘Working together to safeguard children’

Overview of the visit

In line with the Education Inspection Framework, His Majesty’s Inspectors (HMIs) are tasked with making judgements about the following areas of a provision:

Overall effectiveness – this is a combination of the following 4 areas:

  • The quality of education
  • Behaviour and attitudes
  • Personal development
  • Leadership and management

Whilst there is some ongoing debate over the merits of the judgements, currently these areas can be judged as being:

  • Outstanding
  • Good
  • Requires improvement
  • Inadequate

To best prepare for an Ofsted inspection, consider the following areas:

Check your website

The inspector will need to prepare for their visit by gaining a broad overview of the setting, its context and history and the first stop for inspectors is usually the setting’s website. It is crucial that this is up-to-date and displays the legal and minimum information needed. Other evidence is gathered through observations and discussions on the day with members of staff, parents and children.

Use the inspection handbook and prepare your staff

Audit your setting using the “Early Years Inspection Handbook” and make sure that your staff understand how this is used before, during and after a visit. Go through the 4 areas of assessment and see how your setting measures up. If changes need to be made, write a development plan so that you can evidence your leadership and planned actions to Ofsted.

Prepare relevant documents to demonstrate your leadership and management

During a visit, you will need to show the inspector various documents and these need to be up-to-date and easily available. This avoids stress and panicking when you get the Ofsted call. The handbook lists the following documents that inspectors may ask to see:

  • Paediatric first-aid certificates
  • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) records and any other recruitment documents summarising the checks on, and the vetting and employment arrangements of, all staff working at the setting
  • List of current staff and their qualifications
  • Register/list showing the date of birth of all children on roll and routine staffing arrangements
  • 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
  • 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

In addition, the inspector may want to see the policies and procedures of your setting, especially those relating to all aspects of safeguarding, anti-bullying, curriculum and governance. Make sure that your policies reflect the EYFS and are using the key terms from this document. For example, you should use the term “key person” rather than “key worker”.

Check your culture is embedded and reflected in your environment

Everything about your environment and culture should show how effective your setting is in meeting the requirements of the EYFS as well as being a safe environment for the staff and children.

Make sure your reception, outdoor spaces, training rooms, activity areas, and even your offices consistently demonstrate what is important to your setting and the excellent experience that children, parents and other visitors get, and how your culture is embedded. Remove out-of-date notices, have examples of the children’s work, and ensure that health and safety requirements are being followed. Central to the environment and culture is about how you engage with other stakeholders such as parents, carers and outside agencies, so consider how you can demonstrate your involvement with these stakeholders too.

For more on how to embed positive cultures that stick, click here.

Embed your quality of education and reflective practice

This is not something that you can ‘magic up’ on the day of an Ofsted visit. It really is about how your setting functions day-to-day and how your ideas are embedded throughout the setting. However, you can prepare to demonstrate this in a number of ways, for example, through your curriculum designs and provision, meeting records, training records, CPD activities, records of child progress, and an understanding of the developmental stage of the child.

A key thing to embed and practice with staff are the 3 “Is” of:

  • Intent – what do you want to achieve?
  • Implementation – how do you set about doing it?
  • Impact – what impact do your actions have on the children?

Practice this by asking staff regularly to talk about:

  • What they are doing well
  • How they are meeting the needs of the children
  • Areas of development they have identified and the solutions they came up with
  • What impact they have on the education and lives of the children they care for

Ensure all your safeguarding practices are robust

Safeguarding is a huge area of concern for Ofsted so you need to make sure all your records are up-to-date, all your statutory training is done and that your DSL and staff can answer questions about your practice and actions taken. Ensure that you have read and understood the “Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years” guidance which sets out what inspectors will look for. It’s important to be able to answer questions on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic too, so remember to consider this.

And finally, remember not to panic. See an Ofsted visit as a chance to demonstrate your outstanding practice, and plan to do just that.

 

Mastering the Ofsted Strategy 2022-27: 7 Tips for Early Years Providers!

Mastering the Ofsted Strategy 2022-27: 7 Tips for Early Years Providers!

Introduction

In April 2022, Ofsted published its new five-year strategy for 2022–2027 in which it set out its aims, values and priorities for its work in the next few years. You can access the whole strategy document, as well as a one-page summary, here.

Since Ofsted is involved in inspecting all educational institutions including primary, middle and secondary schools, as well as colleges and higher educational establishments, not all of the strategy is directly related to early years. However, one of the main points in the new strategy document is to have a greater focus on early years and we have listed in this article, some of the main things that the early years sector needs to be aware of regarding the new strategy going forward.

The purpose of the strategy

Times change, and Ofsted recognised that it needs to change its strategy periodically to address this. Its guiding principle is “to improve lives by raising standards in education and children’s social care.” Ofsted identifies itself as “a force for improvement through the intelligent, responsible and focused use of inspection, regulation and insights.” The 2022-27 strategy sets out how Ofsted will do this, and recognises that improving children’s lives is ”more important than ever following the disruption and distress of the past two years”.

Ofsted’s main values

Throughout the 2022-27 strategy, there are 4 recurring Ofsted values which can be seen as the guiding principles which underpin the wider strategy. These are:

  • Children and learners first
  • Independence
  • Accountability and transparency
  • Evidence-led inspections and interventions

Priorities for 2022-27

Ofsted has identified 8 main priorities for the strategy period which are:

  • Inspections that raise standards - inspections help education and social care recover and improve their work
  • Right-touch regulation – this refers to Ofsted ensuring high-quality care, education and safeguarding for children
  • Making the most of insights and research – Ofsted is keen to share insights gained through research and analysis. It wants this research to be used by practitioners, policymakers and decision-makers throughout the system to improve it
  • The best start in life – this refers to a greater focus on early years in this strategy. Ofsted wants to develop the evidence base about early years education, including curriculum and pedagogy, and encourage the sector to act on it
  • Keeping children safe – safeguarding and welfare are still top priorities across the board
  • Keeping pace with sector changes – this relates to ensuring that Ofsted is keeping up with changes and adapting accordingly, such as reviewing its approach to multi-academy trusts and unregulated schools
  • Accessible and engaged – Ofsted wants to be open and accessible to its different audiences, and wants to better understand their needs
  • A skilled workforce – this relates to Ofsted’s own workforce ensuring they have the tools, knowledge and expertise they need

The tools that Ofsted uses

Below are some of the tools that Ofsted has identified it can use to raise standards.

They include:

  • Frameworks and handbooks
  • Risk assessments
  • Inspections and visit processes
  • Reports and summaries
  • Insights from evidence and research
  • Application and registration administration
  • Judgements

What are the main things for early years settings to be aware of?

There are several main areas that early years settings need to be aware of in the new strategy. These are:

  1. There is to be a greater focus on early years through the “best start in life” priority and inspectors will receive training to enhance their understanding of effective and high-quality early education. In launching the strategy, the Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, acknowledged the importance of early years, saying: “Each of us has only one childhood, and it shapes the rest of our lives. That’s why this strategy has a particular emphasis on giving all children the best possible start.” She also acknowledged that not all children get this.
  2. Ofsted will also aim to assess the impact of the pandemic on children’s physical, social and wider development. Recent research about the ‘ghost’ children missing from education after the pandemic makes sobering reading with 22% of children missing more than 10% of their schooling last year. The new strategy will aim to assess this impact, especially in early years since Ofsted is aware that the children coming into formal schooling in this period, may have been severely disadvantaged by lockdowns and other issues created by the pandemic which can affect their education.
  3. The strategy includes plans to increase the sharing of data and insights especially in group-owned early years providers and to simplify regulations relating to childminders.
  4. Frequency of inspections are likely to increase as Ofsted is aiming to inspect all schools in England by July 2025. They also plan to increase the amount of longer, Section 5 fully-graded inspections to allow more time for professional dialogues and evidence-gathering. If standards need to be improved, in most cases, this will need to be done within 9 – 12 months.
  5. Ofsted is committed to publishing a series of evidence-led research reports, especially designed for early years. It will explore literature relating to early years education, drawing on a range of sources, including academic and policy literature, looking for evidence-based research which can improve early years education. Subsequent reviews, to be published at a later date, will explore the 3 prime, and 4 secondary early years foundation stages’ (EYFS), areas of learning.
  6. Ofsted is developing a SEND inspection framework which is aimed at local authorities and agencies, focusing on the strategic oversight and commissioning of SEND services and alternative provision. Whilst not directly related early years individually, settings may be involved in helping Ofsted assess how children with SEND are identified and assessed and the quality of provision offered by local authorities in this area. In these new inspections, individual children’s progress may be tracked to get an overview of what it is like for children in that area to have SEND.
  7. There will still be an emphasis of safeguarding, ensuring that safeguarding practices are embedded throughout educational establishments.

Parenta had the pleasure of partnering with 2 Ofsted inspectors, Wendy Ratcliffe and Phil Minns, to bring you an educational webinar on this topic. Watch the recording below!

Giving Children The Best Start In Life – From An Ofsted Perspective

Giving Children The Best Start In Life – From An Ofsted Perspective

Christopher Russell, National Director Education has posted a new article on the Ofsted Early Years Blog in which he explains what Ofsted will be doing as part of its early years strategy.

He writes, “In April 2022, we published our new strategy, which sets out what we hope to achieve over the next 5 years. One aspect we’re particularly committed to is to develop what we know about early years education and to use that knowledge to raise awareness and promote a better understanding of good early education and care. Because it's so important for children to receive good quality education in their formative years, we have called this part of our strategy ‘The best start in life’. We know that a good early education sets the foundation for children’s later success and it:

  • enables a strong start at school
  • can avoid unnecessary labelling of children with special educational needs
  • increases children’s engagement with school-age education
  • reduces poor behaviour.”

He continues; “but not all children get a good early education. To further develop our understanding of what high-quality early years learning and development looks like, we're going to focus research in this area. We’ll share our findings at every stage. We’ll also use what we learn in our inspector training. We want our research to be helpful for those working directly with children, so we’ll also ask early years leaders to tell us how they’re using it.”

He explains that Ofsted will be publishing a 3-part research review over the next year which will focus on birth to 4 years – which builds on the research that Ofsted carried out for the Education Inspection Framework.

Read the full blog here.

Ofsted Inspections: EYFS Revolution Unleashed!

Ofsted Inspections: EYFS Revolution Unleashed!

The so-called ‘freedom day’ of June 21st may have recently been postponed until July 19th, but one thing that nurseries and pre-schools should be aware of is that there are no more postponements of graded Ofsted Inspections, which restarted again on May 4th 2021. During the various stages of lockdown, Ofsted had visited a few settings but the grading system was suspended in favour of ‘assurance inspections’ which were designed to find out the experiences of children attending the setting, and to provide assurance that providers were meeting the registration requirements of either the Early Years Register or the Childcare Register, and settings were only judged on whether they met the requirements or not. 

Since May 4th however, Ofsted have been carrying out full, graded inspections on-site after undertaking preliminary field work to ensure that visits can be carried out safely and with agreed safety measures in place. These include Ofsted Inspectors taking a lateral flow test before arriving and ensuring that interactions between Inspectors, practitioners and parents are socially distanced where possible. In some instances, videocalls are deemed acceptable for speaking to parents/carers or leaders who are unable to attend the setting. 

Since Ofsted are now behind with their usual schedule of Ofsted Inspections, they are prioritising providers who:

  • were judged less than good at their last inspection (including those who received an interim visit in the autumn term)
  • registered recently but have not been inspected
  • have an overdue first inspection 
  • were not inspected in the last inspection cycle due to the pause in routine Ofsted Inspections

Urgent Ofsted Inspections will be carried out if there are significant concerns about a provider but if your setting has cases of COVID-19 at the time of the inspection, you will be able to request a deferral.

During lockdown, Ofsted changed from their usual 4-year cycle, to what they call an “inspection window” – providers have a 6-year window for Ofsted Inspections, but even this depends on when their last inspection was, the grading at that time, and what Ofsted know about the setting. 

Having piloted some changes to the 2019 education inspection framework (EIF), they have published an updated handbook which they urge all settings to read. The changes take into account some of the difficulties and challenges faced due to coronavirus. However, the amendments are only ‘minor’ and the document remains substantially unchanged for most things. The 2 main changes are: 

  1. inspectors will agree safety protocols to ensure the inspection is completed in a COVID-secure way; and
  2. inspection remit handbooks have been updated to reflect the COVID-19 context that settings are operating in, and the disruption the pandemic has caused to them

You can read the main changes here. From Ofsted Inspections, settings will again receive a judgement of either ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, but Ofsted says there will be “flexibility in recognition of current contexts”. 

The initial call

In the initial phone call, Inspectors will now be asking questions about the specific impact of the pandemic on the setting, and how the provision has responded. In April 2020, the government temporarily modified and disapplied some elements of the EYFS especially under the “learning and development” heading, to account for the fact that some settings were closed, and children may not have been attending. Staff qualifications and ratios were adjusted, as was the progress check at age 2, and the validity of paediatric first aid certifications. Given that, the initial conversation will now cover questions on these areas, and Ofsted have said that it may take longer or be split into 2 different calls as mutually agreed. At this stage, the Inspectors will also agree any specific safety protocols with the provider. 

The handbook explicitly states that “Inspectors will always seek to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on providers and will take this into account when reaching final inspection judgements.” Therefore, it is in your interests to have already gathered as much evidence as you can about the way the pandemic has impacted your business. You might want to think about the effect on:

  • staffing levels
  • opening hours
  • attendance rates
  • how you supported learning and development – e.g. what did you do instead if you couldn’t use certain toys?
  • curriculum areas
  • assessments
  • any disapplication you made
  • how you supported vulnerable children
  • how you ensured your commitment to safeguarding

A few things to bear in mind

  • Even if you were not able to stay open at times, settings should have been working flexibly  with other agencies and the local authority to ensure the safety of children as part of their responsibility to safeguarding
  • The extension to the paediatric first aid (PFA) certificate was only until March 31st 2021, so providers must have a valid PFA certificate now
  • If you have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the setting (either child or staff), or if your setting has been advised to close as a result, you should report this to Ofsted as soon as reasonably practical, and in any case within 14 days
  • Think about how you have supported your staff and their own mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. One of the new additions to the latest EIF was a greater emphasis on staff mental health, so remember this in your preparations

Which EYFS document are you using? 

If you are inspected before September 2021, it is likely you will be using the older version of the EYFS, unless you are an early adopter of the new version. After September 1st 2021, all settings are expected to use the new final version that was published on 31st March 2021. 

What did Ofsted say in the recent Parenta webinar?

If you missed the recent Parenta “Ask Ofsted” webinar, held on May 14th, you can access a recording here. It was full of lots of useful advice including: 

  • The main thing Inspectors want to know is - what is it like to be a child in your setting?
  • Be prepared – read the Ofsted Inspections handbook 
  • Don’t be nervous about Ofsted Inspections - do what you normally do
  • They are more interested in what’s happened to children in your setting during the pandemic than paperwork – and what you are doing to help children you are concerned about
  • Don’t be afraid of talking about things you want to be better at – it shows reflective practice and a desire to improve

Between now and September 1st, they will not judge your preparations for implementing the new EYFS. Click here to learn some useful Ofsted Inspection Hacks, and ace your next visit!

Click here to download the poster below to make sure you’re prepared for inspections and the new academic year approaching.

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