The Oustanding Ofsted Experts:
13 Staff Development Tips
Why investing in your staff should be your number one priority.

Welcome to edition number three in our 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.

When we talked to our experts about leadership and management, one topic came up again and again.

Staff development.

While Ofsted covers staff development under the leadership and management criteria, it was clear that we needed to do a separate piece with all this juicy training advice. Let’s see what they have to say, shall we?

1. The team comes first

You can spend all the money in the world on resources, upgrades, and forest school lessons, but without one key piece of the puzzle, you’re not going to get anywhere…

The main thing that makes any setting outstanding is the staff team. You need to make sure that you invest time and money in training them to be the best that they can be. You are only as good as they are.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

2. Worth the investment?

It’s not easy for a cash-strapped setting to find the money for training. But all of our experts told us that it was the one thing they would never scrimp on.

We’re passionate about staff training and it’s all focused on what the children’s needs are. It costs a lot of money to train staff, but the investment has been second to none. If we hadn’t done it then we wouldn’t be where we are now.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

3. Performance management

How do you create an honest dialogue about areas for improvement with your staff? You need to start by removing the fear of performance management.

I give every member of staff a sheet with maybe 50 statements on, and get them to rate themselves on a scale of 1-5. This means they’re not scared about performance management, because they already know what we’re going to discuss, and if they’re honest with themselves, they also know what I’m going to say and they can prepare for it.

Ailsa Monk, Principal, Cotswold Montessori School

4. Talking the talk

Ofsted are going to ask your staff questions. To get outstanding, your practitioners need to be able to explain what they know.

Proper training means the staff can talk the theory as well as explain what’s happening in the room. It’s not just about one single child, but about what they’ve learnt about how all children learn.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

5. Simple questions

Inspectors can make things a lot more complicated than they need to be by using complicated language that practitioners don’t understand. Here’s one way to change that.

Inspectors ask simple questions in complicated ways. So if you can prep your staff with the language of Ofsted by using the handbook as part of your training, it just puts them at ease and lets them be themselves.

Lizzy Barlow, Nursery Group Leader, Hollies Day Nurseries

6. Open your door

Staff development and effective leadership often come hand in hand. That’s why some of those crucial feedback loops we talked about last time are so important.

Ofsted really liked that all staff said we had an open door policy because it gives them easy access to the management any time they wanted to discuss something.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

7. Do they really know it?

Staff development is about more than just turning up. Here’s one way to make sure every member of staff really learns from the training they’ve done.

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.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

8. Everyone can improve

Never forget that your staff aren’t the only ones who might be in need of training and development…

We get evaluated on what we might not do well and we have to take that onboard too. Your staff have to able to approach you to say that they need your support.

Lizzy Barlow, Nursery Group Leader, Hollies Day Nurseries

9. Fixing mistakes

One thing that came up time and again in our discussions on staff development was the importance of having an environment where staff feel comfortable admitting that they’ve made a mistake. Here’s why.

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

10. Balancing the rooms

Staff development is more than just an off-site course once a year. It’s also about giving staff a chance to learn off one another.

You need to balance the skill sets in the room. If you’ve got somebody who is really lively then you can balance them with someone who is more nurturing. If it doesn’t work, then you can always change it.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

11. Strengths vs weaknesses

Think staff development is all about finding and improving on people’s weaknesses? Well, it turns out it’s not always that simple…

You’ve got to identify people’s strengths but don’t necessarily try to develop their weaknesses. There is no point – because you’re just giving them a job that they don’t want to do. Let them use their passion to share with others who want to improve.

Lizzy Barlow, Nursery Group Leader, Hollies Day Nurseries

12. Admitting you’re wrong

More wisdom from our experts on the power of admitting when you’ve not quite got it right.

To have a situation where staff don’t cover up anything, you have to have a framework in which it’s safe to say when you’ve gone wrong.

Ailsa Monk, Principal, Cotswold Montessori School

13. The wrong attitude

To finish off, here’s one example of the type of person who isn’t right to lead an early years setting.

If you like telling people off, this isn’t the business to be in. If something goes wrong it should feel as upsetting to you as it does to them.

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

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

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