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How to Survive an Early Years Ofsted Inspection

If you are a registered childminder or childcare provider working in a nursery, you will be on the Early Years Register. As such, you will usually be inspected by Ofsted within the first 30 months of registering.

However, due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, your visit may have been delayed until this year.

Ofsted is trying to clear a backlog of missed inspections, so if you registered within the last two years, or your inspection is due, you can be reasonably sure a visit will be arranged in the next couple of months.

We’ve put together this blog with a few tips to help you get through it.

Keep Calm

Nothing causes panic like saying ‘don’t panic’. Try to keep it in perspective. It’s only a few hours where a qualified stranger is observing you and the children going about your daily routine together.  

You will be inspected against the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), and KEEP, as well as safeguarding.

Your learning and play should be geared towards delivering the EYFS framework as a matter of course. You should know the learning objectives and be able to explain and illustrate how each activity fits in.

You should also be familiar with the types of safeguarding and how to handle different safeguarding situations.

Trust that you know your job.

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Be Prepared

On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt to test yourself or create mnemonic devices to help you remember key points. This goes for any staff you have working for you also.

If you feel unprepared, it becomes much more difficult to remain calm. You will be given notice to expect an inspection usually at least a week before it takes place.

That should give you adequate time to refresh your memory and make sure your colleagues are up to speed.

Have Your Paper Work in Order

Part of being prepared is being able to lay your hands on all the necessary paperwork. This may include your DBS certificates, food safety certificates, emergency numbers, and paediatric first certificate. Some of these may already be displayed on the walls, but just make sure you know where everything is.

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Try to Stick To Your Usual Routine

As with any assessment, it may be tempting to pack all the ‘best bits’ into the session. This is especially true if you know what time the examiner is due to arrive and leave. You’re proud of the children and want to illustrate how intelligent, caring, and well-adjusted they are.

You may feel that ‘news time’ or ‘welcome time’ best illustrates their grasp of language and other key EYFS indicators.

However, if you normally do a welcome song or other activity first thing in the morning, trying to delay it until the inspector arrives will likely just confuse the children.

An abrupt change to their usual routine could see the children act up as they are unsure what’s happening and could backfire.

The presence of the examiner may disrupt the children, but you should try not to let it take over from your planned activities.

Letting the children and parents know in advance that you are expecting an inspection should help to minimise this disruption as you can prepare the children for a visitor.

Be Honest

Your inspection will include a self-assessment discussion. You must be honest about any challenges or limitations. Try not to be defensive when explaining circumstances that may be beyond your control – such as a lack of diverse influences due to health and safety procedures.

Explain what you would like to do, eg include more role male models via a group sporting activity or interaction with other cultures and communities in a safe and inclusive manner.

Your inspector is a human being and will appreciate your insight into the challenges you are facing. You just need to be able to demonstrate an understanding of the limitations and explain potential solutions.

Focus on the Positives

As part of your inspection, you will be asked to obtain written references from some of the children’s parents or primary caregivers.  Hopefully, you have developed an excellent rapport with them and have lots of communication via a system such as our digital learning journal.  

Still, reading the positive comments parents have made about you and seeing in black and white how much they appreciate you is absolutely lovely. 

We all have bad days, and sometimes you may feel under-appreciated or wonder why you’re even doing what can be a physically and emotionally demanding job. The next time you have a bad day, you can reread what the parents and caregivers said about you and feel good about the work you are doing.

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But Take Critique On Board

We’ve already said try not to get defensive in the self-assessment, but we’re going to add – try not to take constructive criticism too personally. We all want the same thing – the best environment for the children in our care to thrive and develop. If the examiner pulls you up on some aspect of the assessment, try to take it as valuable advice rather than a personal attack.

Then Let It Go

Chances are there’ll be some aspect of the visit that you wish had gone better. It could be that you didn’t give as complete an answer as you wished on one of the assessment questions. Perhaps you made a joke that the examiner considered to be inappropriate? Or was one of the children just not as cooperative as usual? Whatever it is that is niggling away at you, you need to learn from it and move on. You can’t change the past, and children can tell when you’re distracted.

Unless you have been informed that the business requires improvements, you will likely not have another Ofsted inspection for another six years. It used to be one inspection per four-year cycle but changed last year.

Ofsted inspections can be a stressful experience, but we hope these tips help you feel more in control.

Good luck!



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