I have talked about preparing yourself and your documentation for an unannounced Ofsted inspection in a previous blog - http://independentchildminders.weebly.com/1/post/2013/11/unannounced-ofsted-inspections.html.
Childminders asked me if I would also look at how to prepare the children (your own and childminded) for the possible unexpected arrival of an Ofsted inspector.
It is very important that the children in your care cope well during your Ofsted inspection. It can be very hard for some children to cope with changes to their routines and they will need a lot of preparation. Ofsted will be watching to see that children are settled and happy with you - that their wellbeing is high - that they are learning from the minute they arrive in your provision - that they interact well with you and the other children in your care. Ofsted will also note whether children’s behaviour impacts on the group and learning experiences.
Here are some ideas to help you prepare the children for inspection -
· Teach the children about surprises - a lot of childminders use a visual timetable and have a ‘surprise’ card. It can be a little surprise such as a new toy to find on the shelves or a big surprise such as a visitor - and it helps prepare children for the arrival of an Ofsted inspector.
· Keep children in a good routine - welcome, find their photo for self registration, play for a little while, have breakfast, change the date on the calendar, talk about the weather, chat together about what you are doing for the day etc. Even little ones can join in or potter close by so they get used to routine and contribute to the group as soon as they are able. If children are in a good routine they will respond better to an inspector in the house because they will know, despite your visitor, what is happening and what is coming next.
· Set out your play area so it is ready to welcome children in the morning. Make sure that each child has immediate access to something they enjoy playing with when they first arrive. This will show Ofsted that you know each of your children well and that you are organised - it will also help the children to feel comfortable and relaxed when they first arrive.
· Play with the children, on the floor and joining in their games, every day. It is really important that you do not make changes to the way you play and interact with them when the inspector is watching you - because children pick up on this and will react differently. So, spend part of every day engaged in adult led and child initiated activities with them - singing or reading sessions, playing their games, pretending to be the customer in their shop etc. Use these interactions as an opportunity to extend their language and thinking... do this purposefully now and it will come naturally during your inspection.
· Unless the weather is absolutely dreadful, make sure you take the children out at least once during every session they attend - this will make it easier to encourage them outside on the day of your inspection. If possible, keep the door open and have coats, hats, shoes or wellies etc by the door so your inspector can see that you encourage daily outside play. Make sure children know which toys they can and cannot take outside as well - this will save unnecessary arguments or behaviour issues on the day.
· Regularly involve children in fire practices, risk assessments, making decisions and choices etc so they are confident and self assured when the inspector is watching them. Inspectors will very often ask children about your routines and it will help you if they can talk about washing the germs away, standing in the garden when the fire bell rings etc.
Above all, during your inspection focus on the children in your care at the time. Yes, you have to answer the inspector’s questions, but always prioritise the children’s needs. Your next steps / individual planning is much more important than group planning for the little ones so make sure that is your focus. Know your children and what they enjoy doing so you can plan for what they might learn best from next. Older children need more structure, but for the little ones it is individual planning that Ofsted will want to observe.
I will look at how to prepare other areas of provision in future blogs. If you have any areas you want me to consider please contact me and let me know.
I can be contacted on the Childminding Forum - www.childmindingforum.co.uk / on the Independent Childminders Facebook group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/independentchildminders/ / by message on my blog and by email - firstname.lastname@example.org.