So... if you get a knock on the door from Ofsted at 7.30 in the morning ... would you be ready?
This happened to a childminder very recently - it was a compliance inspection so she had to let the inspector in - and she wasn’t ready...
Some survival tips -
· Stay on top of your paperwork - try not to get behind with the essential stuff. There are some tips which you can implement to make sure you are as organised as possible here -
· Ask parents for feedback on your service regularly - don’t rely on being able to send them a questionnaire the week before your inspection is due because you might not get any warning the inspector is coming. Record their feedback in your personal development folder / the Ofsted SEF.
· Prepare yourself and your environment every evening ready for the next day - you are running a business and have to be professional. Before you go to bed get into a routine of -
o Putting out some toys the children who are attending the next day will enjoy - this ensures you can show Ofsted that you provide a welcoming environment.
o Plumping the cushions and setting out some cuddly toys to welcome the children.
o Changing towels, checking supplies of loo roll etc.
o Making sure everything is prepared for the next day - some planning ideas, menu displayed etc.
o Doing a quick risk assessment - put cables out of reach, clear up the kitchen, hide evidence of teenage electronic devices, cables or wine glasses etc...
· Always write up where you go, accidents, medication, visitors etc every day in a diary so you have evidence of what has happened. It will save you a lot of time and effort if you can easily locate information for the inspector.
· Write up meetings with parents - especially tricky ones such as behaviour, safeguarding, money etc - and get them to sign to confirm what you have discussed. If parents tell you something on the doorstep, make a quick ‘parent feedback’ or ‘handover notes’ record somewhere in the child’s file. It is very important that you can provide evidence of what was said and how you dealt with things. Parents can make a complaint against you sometimes weeks or months after the event so keep documents even if the child leaves your provision.
· Make sure parents know where your certificates and emergency and Ofsted posters are displayed - the inspector will try to speak to them as they are dropping off their children and this is one of the questions they might ask.
· Keep your first aid updated! Don’t let it go out of date - even for a couple of days. An out of date first aid certificate will give you an automatic unsatisfactory grade.
· Use the EYFS - and Childcare Register requirements - to check you are doing all the right things legally. Print a copy of each document and make notes to show how you comply with every requirement. If you do this now you will have immediate evidence for your inspector, even when you are in a flap...
· Write the required policies and procedures - and know them! Don’t just copy them from someone else - think about how you use them in your provision - and keep them up-to-date. They cannot sit hiding in your ‘to do’ pile - they have to be at the top and updated as soon as something changes.
· Tell Ofsted if there are things worrying you - even if they don’t seem interested - ask them to write it in your file. I know some childminders think this is ‘asking for trouble’ but it’s better to be up front rather than have a difficult conversation at 8am with 3 children bouncing off the walls about why you didn’t tell them you’ve moved a new partner in, lost a child at the park or that you have a parent threatening to make a malicious complaint against you because you have dared to ask them to pay their bill on time.
· If you are ever in any doubt about a child’s safety you MUST make the call to safeguarding. Most of you will say in your safeguarding procedures that you speak to parents first and record what they say - because this is what we have been told on training - but it is becoming increasingly clear that childminders are easy scapegoats. If you have even the slightest doubt about something - or if a child makes an allegation against you, a parent, a teacher etc - you must not hesitate to make the call - it could be your business on the line if you don’t.
· Write the important risk assessments. Yes, I know what it says in the EYFS - but believe me you will need at least ones in writing to cover eg outings, inside and outside play, your environment, visitors, fire safety etc to help you cope if the compliance visit is linked to safeguarding (which they often are). You will find some help here -
· Don’t go over your numbers - ever! Someone will know - and someone might contact Ofsted - and none of us want that kind of compliance visit. If you do change your numbers for continuity of care in exceptional circumstances you must follow the correct procedure to protect yourself. You can find more information here -
· Recording children’s learning and development is a huge part of the new inspection framework. You must as a minimum record -
o Children’s starting points - the things they are doing and saying when they start in your care - including information about their learning at home
o Observations and assessments of learning - linked to the new Early Years Outcomes guidance
o Individual / next steps planning showing what you and parents are supporting the child to work on next
o How children learn - the characteristics of their learning -
o Evidence that you support children’s learning at home eg activity ideas you have shared with parents
o 2 year progress check
Important - don’t send children’s files home - you will not have any evidence of how you support their learning and development. Instead, invite parents in for short meetings - chat about how things are going and ask them to add comments to their child’s file.
· Try really hard to do your Ofsted SEF and put it on the Ofsted portal so you have ongoing evidence of self improvement. Your action plans for the future (and evidence of previously completed action plans) will show your inspector that you are a professional who wants to drive the business forward and continuously improve.
You can find a FREE 'Essential Ofsted Paperwork Checklist' on the Childcare.co.uk website here - you just need to log in -
There are lots of things that can - and do - go wrong during Ofsted inspections - especially unannounced ones. However, if you get the basics in place you will be better prepared to cope.
I hope this helps! Sarah x