The Oustanding Ofsted Experts:
9 Leadership and Management Tips
What it takes to be an outstanding leader and manager.

Welcome to the second installment 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.

This time, we’re talking about leadership and management. Ideas to improve the way you lead, why you need to spend time in the room, and the difference between management and leadership in an early years setting.

It can be tough at the top. But to be the very best you need to be an outstanding leader and a great manager. So, how do outstanding leaders run their nurseries?

1. Committing to your setting

What really matters the most when it comes to being an outstanding leader and manager? For Becky Pike, effective leadership and management is about one thing.

If your leadership isn’t there then you won’t get outstanding. Unless you’re into everything at your nursery 100% then you’re wasting your time. You’ve got to have commitment to it.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

2. Talk to Outstanding settings

Oustanding leadership and management are also about being honest about where you need to improve. So why not learn from the best?

If you’re a setting and you’re not outstanding, phone a setting who is. People are so happy to share their information. They’re not in it to make money or just to be the best. What matters is the children. So if you have a setting down the road who is outstanding, go and ask to see how they do things.

Lizzy Barlow, Nursery Group Leader, Hollies Day Nurseries

3. Do the dirty work

Effective leadership and management are about more than just sitting in your office dictating what needs to be done. You need to show your staff you can get stuck in too.

I wouldn’t expect anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do. The team know that, which is why they know that when I ask for things it comes from the right place.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

4. An outstanding staff meeting

This is the first three things the team at Cotswold Montessori discuss at every meeting to ensure that all staff are on top of the latest safeguarding issues and risks. It means they are prepared for Ofsted to come at any time.

  • They always start with safeguarding. Are there any issues that we need to address?
  • Next up, are there any early help concerns? That’s a level down from safeguarding and it’s about spotting early warning signs. For example, it could be parents who are struggling.
  • Finally, risk assessments. Is there anything that they need to change or anything new that isn’t working?
5. Out of office

It might be time to reconsider how much time you’re actually spending in the rooms with the children and practitioners. Being on the floor gives you a perspective on your setting you won’t get elsewhere.

Our nursery leaders aren’t office based. They have an amount of time to do their office work and a laptop so they can answer emails in the room, but all of the main admin is dealt with by the administration team. Fees, contracts, new starters, funding – none of it’s dealt with by the leaders.

Lizzy Barlow, Nursery Group Leader, Hollies Day Nurseries

6. Leading vs managing

Leadership and management are not the same thing. So what is it that sets leaders apart from managers?

Understand the difference between being a leader and being a manager – these are vital and complementary skills but they are not the same thing. Leaders must be able to identify the strengths of their team and areas for development and approach them both proactively.

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

7. Being in the room

Empowering your staff to be a little silly, get down on a child’s level and play is an important part of the job that so many managers end up leaving behind.

If you’re in the room, you’ve got no choice but to be engaged, because the children will climb on you. And if you can show that you can be silly and play and have a laugh, the staff can be silly and play too.

Becky Pike, Partner, Hollies Day Nurseries

8. Are you approachable?

How often do your staff come to you with concerns, ideas and queries? Making yourself approachable to your staff is absolutely crucial if you want to improve – open communication is the only way to get honest feedback.

Being open and being approachable is the most important thing as a leader so that you can have that open communication with your staff team. You need to be able to have the difficult conversations but you won’t get the confidence to do that if you don’t spend time educating yourself so that your team trust your judgement.

Catherine Walker, Childcare Manager, Priesthills Nursery

9. The tenth man

Want an actionable piece of advice that you can try out tomorrow? This concept of the tenth man from Becky Pike is something that could benefit any leader.

At any staff meeting, if everybody agrees on something, then it’s somebody’s designated job to disagree. They need to find an argument against it, play devil’s advocate.

Funnily enough, that argument can often win out, because being able to take a completely different view of something can often come up with the best answers. We call that the tenth man. I think it came from a film! It’s just a great way of questioning stuff.

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.