The Oustanding Ofsted Experts:
Preparing For The Ofsted Inspection

The first in a new series helping you to get the outstanding result you deserve.

Welcome to the first in a brand new series on Ofsted. We’ve talked to five outstanding nursery managers and leaders, as well as leading early years expert Dr Sue Allingham, to bring you all the tips, advice, and guidance that you need to improve your Ofsted rating.

First up, it’s all about preparing for Ofsted. What you should be doing all the time, what you need to do once you get the call – it’s all about making yourself ready for the day and show them what you’ve got.

It’s not about having a special Ofsted day plan. Instead, it’s making sure that you and your staff are confident and capable enough to let the good work you do shine through.

1. Selling yourself

What attitude do you have when you first get the call? Is it fear? Maybe it’s time to take a different route and learn the importance of selling yourself.

The call is the first point for you to really sell yourself. To say “Yes, come on, we’re ready for you, we’re looking forward to it, can’t wait to show you around.” Be positive. Be competent. Ordered. Ask questions. Sell yourself, because that’s effectively what you’re doing.

Ailsa Monk, Principal, Cotswold Montessori School

2. Your time to shine

One thing that came up time and time again with our experts was that it’s not a good idea to try something new. Stick to what you know.

The inspector said, this is your time to shine. Because it is your time to shine. Do what you’re good at and don’t put anything in that you’ve never done before. It’s not a day for trying something new.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

3. Telling the staff

One thing you don’t want is your staff crumbling under the pressure. At the end of the day, Ofsted can be a bit of a performance, and you want to prepare them without letting them stress about what’s to come.

I waited until the end of the day to tell the staff so that they could just go home and relax as much as possible. There’s nothing that we needed to do or change that day specifically for Ofsted’s visit.

Ailsa Monk, Principal, Cotswold Montessori School

4. Don’t panic

When you do get the call, take the time to reassure yourself of all of the work you’ve done to prepare for this. You’re far more ready than you might think.

Firstly it’s about not panicking.  Unless it is a complaint driven inspection, you will have been working towards this inspection for some time. Be confident and believe in the work you’ve done.

Dr Sue Allingham, Early Years Expert, EY Out Of The Box Consultancy

5. Keep it simple

There’s nothing wrong with going over some bits and pieces to make sure the important things are at the front of your mind. But this is no time to start making any big changes.

It’s much better to just do what you do every day. If you run your nursery properly then you don’t need to change anything. Obviously, you should check your policies and procedures are up to date, but you should be doing the day-to-day stuff anyway. If you change it for an inspection then it’s going to go wrong.

Michelle Tudenham, Childcare Manager, Little Acorns Montessori

6. Organisation

As we’ve already mentioned, getting your staff to feel comfortable around the inspector is one of the most important things you can do when you’re preparing for Ofsted.

I think the key to getting outstanding was getting more organised. In particular, we noticed that staff were getting really nervous because they felt like they didn’t know the right things to say or do. I think that might have held us back in the past because they were worried about doing the wrong thing.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

7. Get some sleep

Yes, it can be an inviting idea to sit up all night making sure you know everything, but this is where you need to trust your instincts. A good night’s sleep is going to be much more important than your last-minute cramming.

It is important that you don’t try to stay up all night to change the way things are done or write new documents. This will be very obvious during the inspection as the practice won’t be embedded. Just do what you always do, and try to act normally. It is too late to change anything now.

Dr Sue Allingham, Early Years Expert, EY Out Of The Box Consultancy

8. The post-call strategy

The team at Hollies Day Nursery have a strategy for when you get that phone call, which is to PANIC! No, it’s not! The strategies they use really can make the difference between good and outstanding.

  • After the phone call – inform everybody straight away
  • Make sure that every member of staff who is in that day is confident and experienced
  • Get the nursery clean and ready
  • Make sure everyone feels confident about their room
  • Don’t put something in you haven’t done before
  • Hold a quick meeting the night before to tell all the staff how amazing they are
  • Get other practitioners to share their experience from past inspections
9. Finding the answer

You need to give your staff the tools to deal with what can be a stressful experience. Let them know that it’s OK to say what they’re not sure of, so long as they know how to find out.

If you get put on the spot, just say “You know what, my mind’s gone blank, can you give me a minute?” That’s all you need to do – you don’t need to have every answer every time.

Lizzy Barlow, Nursery Group Leader, Hollies Day Nurseries

10. The right language

The language that Ofsted inspectors use can be pretty confusing. Making sure that your staff understand the words the inspectors will use is crucial when you’re preparing for Ofsted.

We use a competency framework that runs in levels to assess our staff. It’s more about passion and talent than qualifications. Kind of like a learning journey. Within that we use the kind of language that Ofsted wants you to know so that it’s a part of the staff’s whole process with us.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

11. Mock Ofsted

If you do want to make sure your team is a bit more comfortable on the day, why not try a mock Ofsted? Not only will it let everyone know what to expect, but you can get some great tips to improve.

The mock Ofsted inspection was really useful to get staff comfortable with answering questions. In the real thing, they commented on how consistent and accomplished the staff answers were. The main difference was that everyone was so much more confident once they’d been through that mock process.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

12. Best practice

You should be striving for best practice every day. If you’ve got a special ‘Ofsted day plan’, maybe it’s time to implement that anyway.

If you do have special activities, and you think that’s best practice and what Ofsted want to see, then why don’t you do that every day?

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

Found some helpful tips? Well, we’ve got some good news. You can now download the full guide for free, with 12 different sections covering every area of your Ofsted inspection. Time to get the outstanding result that you deserve.

Free outstanding Ofsted guide

Download the full guide to read 12 sections of outstanding advice, completely free.

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