The Questions Ofsted Might Ask
You and Your Nursery Team
And how you can answer them.

Does the thought of an Ofsted inspector firing questions at you and your team put you in a cold sweat? Oh good, just you and everyone else in the childcare sector then.

Ofsted inspection time is a stressful time for any nursery manager, but proper preparation can help to ease your stress and feel ready for every single Ofsted question that the inspector will throw at you.

We’ve looked into all the key documents and looked into the questions being asked at recent inspections to find out what you can expect and how to prepare yourself and your staff when the day comes.

How to prepare your staff

Ofsted inspections aren’t just a test of what you know. A major part of the inspection is of course going to be the inspector going through practices and Ofsted questions with your staff. This is where your meetings and staff training really gets tested, and your staff are going to need to know their stuff on day to day safeguarding, the EYFS and anything that might fall specifically under their role.

Preparing a handout with key information to give out to staff might be a good move. But one thing many managers forget to tell their staff is what to do if they don’t know.

Under the nerves, it’s easy to feel panicky, and if you are having a brain freeze, you need to calmly tell the inspector that you’re feeling a little nervous, and can’t remember right now. Even more importantly, they do need to know how to find out. In many ways, understanding how to get the information they need is just as good as having it in mind in the moment.

Trust in your training and give your staff the right tools to deal with the pressure and they’re going to be fine.

1. The basics

Let’s kick it off with the basics…

What might they ask?

  • How many children are enrolled at the nursery right now?
  • Can you run me through the staff qualifications?
  • What are the staff’s DBS dates?
  • Can I see today’s register?
  • At what level are the staff qualified in paediatric first aid?

What do I need to prepare?

These ones shouldn’t be complicated, but it is important that you either have these facts and figures in your head or at least know where to find them. The list that we’ve included in the documents section should give you a good indication of what you’ll need, but really it’s the sort of stuff you’re likely to have to hand anyway.

2. SEN, EYPP, and EAL

In many ways it’s ridiculous to lump these three massively different groups together. But here we’re just talking about how you approach questions about individual child cases, and what you’re doing with any funding you might be receiving.

What might they ask?

  • How do you take steps to include the SEN children within the normal activities at the setting?
  • How are you working with the relevant agencies with regards to the SEN children in the setting?
  • How are you meeting the specific needs of your EAL children?
  • How is the funding you receive through the EYPP being used in the setting?
  • How do you monitor progress with regards to the strategies you have in place?

What do I need to prepare?

Most of these are only going to be for you, the SENDCo or perhaps a specific child’s key person. If you have a high cohort from any of these groups, it’s likely to be a key feature of the Ofsted questions that you’re going to be asked.

Understanding how any funding is being spent is an important one, and you’ll want to really think about how the money you’ve spent is making a difference.

3. Staffing

How you are managing your staff is a crucial part of the inspection. After all, the effectiveness of your leadership will end up forming a significant part of your rating.

What might they ask?

  • What does your recruitment process look like?
  • How do you manage staff supervision and appraisals?
  • How are you monitoring staff performance?
  • Do you run any peer-to-peer observations?

What do I need to prepare?

Away from the children specifically, your staff management is likely to feature heavily in the Ofsted questions that you’re being asked. Are you doing enough to support every member of staff’s development.

They’ll be asking your staff about your leadership too, so it really matters that any initiatives you have are really in place and not just something you’ve briefed everyone on because the inspection is around the corner.

Consider carefully whether there are any holes in your recruitment process and whether you could be doing more to support your staff. If you’re looking for ideas on how to more effectively manage your team, you can download our free guide with skills, activities and interviews on managing a successful team.

4. Safeguarding and prevent

This is the big one. We’ve heard time and time again that safeguarding is something that will take up a lot of the Ofsted questions that you’ll be asked.

What might they ask?

  • How do you work to promote the British Values?
  • What should you be looking out for if a child spends a long time away from the setting?
  • How do you report a safeguarding issue? What if the manager is not there?
  • What would be some warning signs for you that there was a safeguarding issue with one of your key children?
  • What would you do if someone with a gun was outside your setting (Lockdown)?

What do I need to prepare?

This is probably where inspectors have the most expectation from the practitioners themselves, and where your preparation with handouts and training sessions will really matter. Promoting British Values, in particular, is something that has been covered in a lot of Ofsted questions recently.

It might seem a bit over the top to be talking about guns and serious prevent strategies, but Ofsted is clear that these are important specifically because it could happen to anyone. That’s why you will need to be prepared for every outcome. Check and double check those safeguarding documents!

5. Policies and procedures

It might be a bit of a slog, but going through your policies and procedures is an inevitability when Ofsted come calling.

What might they ask?

  • What is your policy on fire safety?
  • How do you keep parents updated on policy and procedures?
  • Can you talk me through one of your recent risk assessments?
  • What is your process for dealing with parent complaints?
  • What happened the last time you had to fill out an accident or incident form?

What do I need to prepare?

It goes without saying that you need to make sure everything is in tip-top shape well in advance of Ofsted coming round.

But one thing that seems to come up a lot is questions about the most recent instance of something or at least a fairly recent incident. With that in mind, make sure you’ve refreshed your memory with all of the details of recent incidents, whether it’s accidents, complaints or risk assessments. If any staff were involved it may well be worth running it through briefly with them too.

6. EYFS and cohort tracking

This is another one that’s likely to involve your staff, particularly around their key children and how they observe them.

What might they ask?

  • Run me through a specific observation you might make on a child.
  • How are you tracking child development in the setting?
  • How are you doing your cohort analysis?
  • What areas of the EYFS do you need to work on with certain cohorts at the moment?
  • What are some of the ways that you work on parent partnerships?
  • How are you supporting children when they first start?
  • What is your process for planning and implementing next steps?
  • How do you make two-year progress checks?

What do I need to prepare?

Make sure that everyone (including yourself) has a great working knowledge of all 7 areas of learning, and can independently come up with ideas on how to extend learning into each of the areas.

You should also take a look at your cohort analysis and be realistic about what you need to work on in the setting. The inspectors know that running a nursery is a work in progress and that every cohort is different. You don’t have to have it all sorted out. What’s more important is that you know the areas that need work and have plans in place to do just that.

If you need any guidance on next steps in particular, you can join nearly 5,000 nursery managers and practitioners who have downloaded our next steps guide, full of ideas on new approaches to child development and the planning of next steps.

7. Documents. Documents. Documents

Documents are one of the big headaches for nursery managers. What do I need to have? Do I need an Ofsted folder? Does it need to be colour-coded, sticky-noted, organisation perfection?

The truth is, Ofsted are very clear in their inspection handbook on what inspectors should expect providers to have at the ready. Provided that you know where it is and it’s easily accessible when Ofsted come calling, you really shouldn’t worry about having it all in a perfectly neat folder.

For your benefit, here’s the full list of all the relevant documentation that Ofsted expect:

  • Current staff list and staff qualifications, including paediatric first aid
  • A register/list showing the date of birth of all children on roll and routine staffing arrangements
  • List of children present at the setting during the inspection (if not shown on the register)
  • Any information about pre-planned interruptions to normal routines during the inspection, such as off-site visits
  • The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) records and any other documents summarising the checks on, and the vetting and employment arrangements of, all staff working at the setting
  • All logs that record accidents, exclusions, children taken off roll and incidents of poor behaviour
  • All logs of incidents of discrimination including racist incidents
  • Complaint log and/or evidence of any complaints and resolutions
  • Complaint log and/or evidence of any complaints and resolutions
  • Risk assessment, fire safety, and other policies relating to health and safety
  • A list of any referrals made to the designated person for safeguarding, with brief details of the resolutions
  • A list of all children who are an open case to social care/children’s services and for whom there is a multi-agency plan
  • Information about the supervision of staff (in group provision)
  • Information about training and/or career professional development of staff
  • Any reports of external evaluation of the setting
  • The self-evaluation document if the provider has not already submitted it
8. Two more important bits

After some reflection and feedback, we wanted to add a few important notes to this article, on the Self-Evaluation Form (SEF) and what you need to know about incidents reported to Ofsted.

Incidents Reported
Have you had any incidents reported to Ofsted recently? If so, this is something you and all your staff are going to need to be aware of before the inspection.

They’re not going to mention the specific incident, but it’s highly likely that they will run through a similar scenario with the staff to find out what they would do in the situation now. It’s a way of checking that the staff have the proper understanding and procedures in place without referencing the specific incident.

In essence, you just need to make sure you’ve briefed all your staff on the proper practice and procedures around anything that’s been reported to Ofsted. Keep it broad, and talk generally about the type of incident rather than the particular case.

SEF
One thing that Ofsted is very clear on is that settings do not need to have an SEF.

However, we do know that many Outstanding settings choose to use them, and Ofsted do explain in their mythbuster document that staff and managers should be able to answer questions about the quality of care you’re providing and how well the setting is meeting the children’s needs.

For many, completing regular SEFs is the best way to have a clear understanding of where the setting is and where work needs to be done.

Whether you choose to have an SEF or not, make sure you can explain exactly how you are reflecting on all aspects of your setting, and what steps you are putting in place to work on and improve those areas that you think need it.

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