I read Ofsted reports and look at judgements so I can improve my service and target my continued professional development (CPD).
Recent Ofsted inspection outcomes focus on:
- The quality / consistency of teaching and learning
- Assessment and planning
- Self-evaluation and action planning
- Staff management
Teaching and learning relates to how well we deliver our curriculum – the 7 areas of learning.
Within this area of inspection, Ofsted comments usually focus on:
- Lack of quality starting points about children
- Lack of information about children’s interests
- Staff failing to challenge children to move on
In our setting, we ask parents for 2 types of information about their child:
- Starting points – linked to the child’s age / stage, taken from Early Years Outcomes
- All about me – initial information about the child so we can start planning to their interests from day 1
These documents help us to forge initial relationships with parents as well – they will know their child is special to us and that we are interested in getting to know them.
When we have 'starting points' and 'all about me' in place we can plan for the child's learning. We don’t challenge learning immediately – we do our own baseline assessment and our planning is focused on ‘on the spot’ play - we watch and listen during play and extend the child's learning or consolidate / practice / repeat something.
In addition, we have our usual continuous provision activities and daily routines so children (hopefully) settle in quickly.
With a quick baseline assessment in place we feel ready to:
- Assess – think about what the child knows and doesn’t know – what the child has learned and needs to learn next
- Plan – for the individual child (all children) and for the group of children (slightly older children).
I ask parents to keep us updated with home learning as well. This helps ensure our planning is always up-to-date and accurate with where we are heading next.
We try to ensure every child gets the best possible learning experience while they are here – whether they attend Monday morning or Thursday afternoon (we don’t work Fridays).
I often say this during training – it doesn’t matter when the inspector arrives, every child’s key person must show that they are engaged with the child, knowing what they can and cannot do, knows how they learn and is ready to play with them and provide them with quality individualised experiences.
Assessment and planning is linked in Ofsted inspection reports to staff who do not know their key children and cannot talk confidently about them.
I often say during training: have a story in your head about every child in your key group.
A story about Jane…
This is Jane – she is 2 years 3 months old. She really enjoys playing with the teddies and dolls – she is not too keen on messy play – she loves being outside making dens – she has a big brother called John and talks about him a lot so we have his photos in her album which she likes to look at when she feels she is missing him… Jane is practising … Jane knows about … Jane has joined in with … to support Jane’s learning I am planning …
It is so important that staff have a good understanding of child development:
We use Early Years Outcomes in our setting but ‘What to expect, When?’ is useful as well and good to share with parents. Alongside Early Years Outcomes we use our knowledge of the child and what they might enjoy doing next – what ‘typical development’ looks like for each child.
We also have information sheets for parents which we share at different ages – and ideas for home learning linked to whatever we are doing in the setting – and we ask for regular updates about what the child is doing and saying at home so planning is always relevant.
This type of focused assessment helps us to keep a close eye on how children are getting on and, if there is a concern, to ‘reduce gaps’ in children’s learning – another regularly used phrase in Ofsted inspection reports. This means that if a child is falling behind in any area of learning, we quickly spot it by doing ongoing observations and regular (termly) assessments – then we can put out focus activities, direct teaching or some staff modelling in place to help the child catch up.
Note that the only written assessment required by the EYFS is the 2 year progress check but most inspectors are looking for some assessments shared with parents and tracking information.
Self-evaluation and action planning – when Ofsted removed their self-evaluation form (SEF) it did not mean an end to self-evaluation and action planning – quite the opposite.
Ofsted inspectors usually ask providers about their self-evaluations and how they are driving their businesses forward – they should not ask to see the information in writing and it can be shared verbally.
I regularly think about the training I have written, the articles I have read, the courses I have done and the blogs I have researched – and how they have impacted on my setting and outcomes for children.
I share some of my continued professional development with colleagues and learn from their experiences as well – it helps to ensure I stay up-to-date and accurate with my action planning, especially as the Ofsted early years inspection handbook is currently being updated - I want to show that I am driving my professional development forward and embracing the new terminology and information shared by Ofsted.
Performance management comments in inspection reports are usually linked to lack of staff training, dips in deliver of quality teaching and learning and lack of effective staff supervision.
Supervision allows a manager / owner to spot what staff are doing well and what they need to do next – for practitioners who work on their own, it is important to think about what training you want to access and why... so you can target your professional development to help you improve.
For example, if you have a child who is currently learning through a rotation schema you might research some ideas for supporting their learning and share information about the schema with parents so they can develop their child’s interest at home.
Staff training is ongoing in my setting – if a staff member asks for training, I will see how I can facilitate it for them; if I note a gap in training, I will plan time for them to do some reading or take a course.
I hope this little blog helps you to focus on what is coming up in inspection. Bear in mind that safeguarding always features and is a limiting judgement (get safeguarding wrong and your inspection will not go well) and inspectors will pick up on anything they see or hear during their time with you.
If you need any further support, please contact me on the Independent Childminders Facebook group where I will be happy to help.