The Outstanding Ofsted Experts:
8 Teaching, Learning & Assessment Tips

Learning is a two way street.

Welcome to edition number six 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.

Are your assessments up to scratch? Do you really know each child and where they’re at developmentally? This is what Ofsted want to find out. Below, our experts reveal the key tips that have helped them achieve outstanding results in the past.

1. Learning from the kids

Your setting’s children directly reflect the hours of hard work you and your team put in. What better indicator of an outstanding setting than seeing children whose teaching and learning needs are being met?

Multiple inspectors have said to me now that they shouldn’t need to talk to a manager or staff member to see if a setting is outstanding. They say that they can learn everything they need to know from the children.

Lizzy Barlow, Nursery Group Leader, Hollies Day Nursery

2. Know the children

By gaining a deep understanding of the children, your staff can have more in-depth discussions about the specifics of their learning journeys with Ofsted.

You need to make sure that staff know their key children really well and that they have the time to build those relationships with both the children and the parents.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

3. Individual learning plans

Every child is different and certain concepts may come quickly to some, while taking time for others. Individual learning plans ensure all children can progress at the right pace.

What really swung it for us was how well we know our children. Every child has an individual learning plan and twice a year we take the time to make assessments on how the children are doing and produce a CoEL report on them. We use our own practitioner knowledge for that which helps us to understand our children really well.

Ailsa Monk, Principal, Cotswold Montessori School

4. In-the-moment planning

A traditional, rigorous approach to planning often stifles children’s interest and engagement in activities. Time to consider ‘in-the-moment’ planning?

Changing to in-the-moment planning has been really positive for the children. They are so much more engaged and they settle a lot more quickly because of the continuous provision. It means they know where things are when they arrive in the morning.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

5. Next steps

Next steps can be a complicated affair. But according to one of our experts, choosing next steps based on the next Development Matters statement alone is not good for the children and it won’t impress Ofsted.

Staff need to think for themselves when it comes to next steps. Because if you’re just given an automatic next step, that might not be the right one for that child. And the inspector said she agreed with that.

Michelle Tuddenham, Manager, Little Acorns Montessori

6. Time in the classroom

As a childcare leader, finding a way to spend time ‘on the ground’ is the best way to ensure your setting is on track and providing a consistent, high-quality learning environment for the children.

At the beginning of each big term I spend a whole day in each class with the teachers to track the children’s development. I also observe how the classroom runs, how the teachers are teaching, how the routines are and so on. That is my monitoring system to make sure no child is left behind and that we always have things to improve on.

Ailsa Monk, Principal, Cotswold Montessori School

7. EYFS not the focus?

Documentation plays a key role in providing evidence of your setting’s teaching, learning and assessment efforts, but Ofsted want to see that evidence more directly. That is, through the children’s actual learning.

They used to go through all of your journals and tracking with a fine tooth comb but I don’t think the EYFS is the focus anymore. It’s more important that you’re looking at where each child is and use that to push them further on.

Michelle Tuddenham, Manager, Little Acorns Montessori

8. Correcting your mistakes

Nobody’s perfect, and Ofsted understand that. Instead of trying to hide from those mistakes, it’s important to be constructive and learn from them.

A member of staff was doing an activity with playdough when a child wanted to come in and put water in the playdough and she stopped him. That is not outstanding practice. But within 30 seconds she realised she’d made a mistake and so in front of the inspector she went to her line manager and said “I’ve made a mistake and I need to change it”.

Together they brought the child back in, brought the water with them and they developed the activity into something completely different. In her report, the inspector noted specifically that this was outstanding practice. She said it doesn’t matter that she made a mistake, she acknowledged it, she did something about it, and she engaged the child with the child-initiated choice. That was the outstanding practice.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

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

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