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10 Things to Prepare Ahead of the Return of Ofsted Inspections

With the news that Ofsted inspections for schools, early years, children's social care and further education and skills providers are getting back up to speed from the 4th of May, what do you need to check to make sure you’re inspection-ready?

The above video makes reference to “Looked After Children”. For more background on Looked After Children, read our article linked here.

1. Admin

With new regulations, sanitisation rules and social distancing measures, it’s easy for basic admin to get missed as you focus on other things. However, this is the foundation for your Ofsted inspection and the last thing you want is to find you’ve missed some essential tasks when the inspector is visiting! Some things to check on are:

  • Records of fire alarm tests and fire drills.
  • Correct names in policies (current names of your manager, SENCO, etc.).
  • Policy review dates (You can update your core policies in the TNL Premium Resources store).
  • Central Staff Record up to date, with DBS and statutory training details included.

2. Head Count

It’s not unusual for an inspector to ask questions like “How many children are on your roll?”, “How many of them speak English as an Additional Language?”, “How many of them are from Forces Families?” or “How many of them are Looked-After Children?”. Whilst there is no expectation that you should know those numbers off the top of your head, it gives a better impression if you have up-to-date counts that you can find easily when the inspector is asking.

3. First Impressions

We’ve all heard the story – a junior practitioner answers the door to an Ofsted Inspector and, in their haste to get them to the Manager as efficiently as possible, they completely forget to sign them in properly or give them a visitor badge. It’s not the end of the world but will make the world of difference if all your practitioners are run through the drill beforehand to avoid this situation.

4. Timing

Visits from Ofsted are not random. They happen for one of two reasons – either because your setting hasn’t been inspected in the current inspection cycle or because Ofsted has reason to be concerned that your setting isn’t complying with EYFS, normally as a result of a complaint. Ofsted have also stated that they will be prioritising settings:

  • judged less than good at their last inspection (including those who received an interim visit in the autumn term).
  • that registered recently but have not been inspected.
  • whose first inspection is overdue.
  • that were not inspected in the last inspection cycle due to the pause in routine inspection.
Photo by Kyrie kim on Unsplash

5. Self-Reflection

A central part of Ofsted’s approach to inspection is to verify that settings are aware of their own weaknesses without an inspector telling them. There is no such thing as a “perfect” setting so everyone, and those in leadership positions especially, should be ready to give an honest appraisal of the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses. Crucially, you should also be ready to explain the steps you’re already taking to improve in the areas you’ve identified to be weak.

6. Observing/Being Observed

All inspections will involve a degree of observation by the inspector, sitting or standing nearby and watching staff practicing. In the last major update to Ofsted’s inspection approach they introduced the idea of a “joint observation” where the inspector will invite the setting manager or owner to observe with them. Getting your team familiar with working while being observed is easily done with practice, and it will be a good opportunity for you to get to grips with it too.

7. Engaging with Families

Ofsted will always speak to families of children when they attend your setting during an inspection. While it is inappropriate to try and influence the views they share with an inspector, you can get ahead of the game by asking the community for feedback before an inspector appears. Take a look at our content on forming Positive Parental Partnerships for some tips on how to capture the views of parents in an effective, easy way.

8. Website

Before visiting, an inspector will check if you have a website and will use this to gather background information to prepare. This is your first opportunity to make a good impression by ensuring your website is up to date – e.g., making sure that staff lists are accurate. Some settings go as far as preparing a special page on their website just for an Ofsted Inspector to review. While this is certainly not required, but it can be a nice way to set out the needed info, and it gives the impression of being prepared and welcoming to the inspector.

9. COVID-19 Guidelines

You can be sure that the inspections which are conducted in the coming weeks will seek to validate that the correct precautions are being taken in relation to COVID-19. This is, potentially, quite difficult as many COVID related practices have negative impacts on children’s experience and development, so it would be best to check regularly that any measures which are in place in your setting remain consistent with the current advice.

To help with this, you can visit the TNL Premium Resource store to get a COVID-19 Policy for your setting, which includes free updates as regulations change.

10. Keeping Calm

It’s understandable to be nervous about an Ofsted inspection. However, as a leader it’s important that you don’t pass this on to your practitioners and, instead, project an air of calmness and confidence to your team. If you or your team are stressed, you won’t perform to the best of your ability. To take care of your and your practitioners’ wellbeing and stress levels, check out TNL’s resources on mental health.