The Outstanding Ofsted Experts:
9 Self-Evaluation Tips

Self-evaluation isn't dead post-SEF.

Welcome to edition number four in our 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.

Despite the recent withdrawl of Ofsted’s SEF (self-evaluation form), self-evaluation should still be playing a crucial role in your setting, helping you to continually improve and develop your practice.

With that being said, it can often be tricky to know where to start, or how much to do. Below, our experts reveal the key tips that have helped them achieve outstanding results in the past.

1. Always changing

It can be easy to feel content sticking with what you know, and what has worked in the past for your setting. But…

The current thinking in childcare is continually changing and so is the legislation and rules. So to continue to provide outstanding care for the children you have to be continually assessing yourself.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

2. Organic self-evaluation

Ensuring that your self-evaluation remains fluid and adaptable to change lets you take on feedback from the children, parents, and staff in your setting.

Our self-evaluation is very organic. If something stops being exciting because the children lose interest, then we address it next time we have an evaluation. We don’t just keep bashing away at the same thing because people say that you should.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

3. Constant self-evaluation

Reconsider the need for monthly, quarterly or even yearly evaluation – by instead adopting an ongoing reflective environment, your setting can better prepare for Ofsted.

We’re continually self-evaluating, and we’ve always got specific improvement projects that we’re working on. Looking closely at where we are good and where we are outstanding and choosing the areas to improve upon was a huge contributor to us getting the grade in the end.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

4. Involving the parents

A parent knows their child best, and when seen with a fresh pair of eyes, parents can provide invaluable feedback on potential ways the nursery setting can transform from good, to outstanding.

We let parents join in on the training with our staff if they want to, meaning they take on exactly the same early years training that our staff do. Then we do a survey each time afterwards to find out how the course went. Now we keep the flyers from those events, and get them to take questionnaires to show how we’re developing the practice and looking always to improve. That’s the kind of evidence Ofsted liked to see.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

5. Keeping it fresh

Continuing to build on and develop from previous self-evaluations prevents stale or ineffective processes. That’s why a working document might be the best route…

I find a working document is better as a self-evaluation because then it’s not going to go out of date the minute you’ve finished it.

Ailsa Monk, Principal, Cotswold Montessori School

6. Who to include?

As the name suggests, self-evaluation is mainly about looking inwards. But taking a step back makes it possible to get more input both from those inside your setting and beyond.

We include our children, our parents, our families, our environment, and local factors in our evaluation. You need to go outside the doors of your setting and see how the local factors change what you do.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

7. Looking inwards

Often taking the time to simply observe one another in the work environment allows for constructive team feedback.

If the team do training outside of our internal training they need to be able to evidence what they’ve learnt and present that training back to the rest of the staff. Just because they’ve got a certificate doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.

Michelle Tuddenham, Manager, Little Acorns Montessori

8. SEF no more?

SEF or no-SEF, self-evaluation and a complete overview of your setting are going to keep playing a vital role in Ofsted’s evaluation.

Post-SEF, you still need to demonstrate that you understand how effective your setting is and that you have clear actions to move it forward. This needs to include evidence of exactly how these actions are being implemented, and any impact so far.

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

9. The self-evaluation scrapbook board

Paperwork doesn’t have to be boring! With Ofsted’s discontinuation of SEF why not get creative?

The fact that the staff feel comfortable telling us if they’ve made a mistake means that we can correct the problems and let the right people know before they become bigger problems. It’s really important that they feel comfortable to just ask or say.

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.

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