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One of the saddest types of emails I get are from childminders who feel they were the ‘victims’ of a bad Ofsted inspection. “It wasn’t fair that she didn’t…” people will say. Or “she just didn’t understand that…” Horrible, unfair Ofsted inspections (like bad job interviews) do happen and when they do are you are well within your right to make a complaint. But don’t set yourself up to be a victim. With a bit of planning you can “manage” your Ofsted inspector and take control of your inspection so it goes the way you want it to.
Tip 1: Modesty has no place on your Self-Evaluation Form
If you want the Ofsted inspector to think your setting is outstanding then don’t rate any sections of your practice ‘good’ or ‘requires improvement’ and hope that she will ‘read between the lines’ or realise that you want outstanding really but are being modest. People (including Ofsted inspectors) are very impressionable. Your answers to the Self Evaluation Form tell her what to expect before she arrives. If you tell your inspector that she can expect to see an outstanding setting, then she will come looking for excellence. Tell her you ‘require improvement’ and she will arrive looking for flaws.
Tip 2: Control those vital first impressions
Those first few moments when your Ofsted inspector arrives are crucial because she is using that time to form instantaneous impressions about you, your setting and your children. So think carefully about how you will manage those first few minutes. As she walks through your front door which way will you lead her? Will you invite her to sit at your dining table or on the couch? Will you offer her a cup of tea? If she says yes, will you really leave her alone with the children while you make her one? What if she says no to the tea? Yikes! Remember that you are actually in control of this time. Like any guest she must be polite and respectful of your home, will follow where you lead her, and respond to your social prompts. It is your house so you have the advantage here. Use it!
Tip 3: Don’t let the problem child mess this up for you
You can’t (unfortunately) lock him in the shed when you see her car pull up for your inspection, so the best thing to do about Problem Child is to make sure the inspector is aware right from the start that Alexander has ADHD/ has dad in jail/ is completely new to your setting etc. Call it to her attention so you can show how you are planning to ‘narrow his attainment gap’ to help him to catch up with the other children as soon as possible.
Tip 4: Make sure you know what your local safeguarding procedures are.
You KNOW how important safeguarding is. If you don’t know what to do if you suspect that a child in your setting has been abused then you are throwing her ammunition she will definitely use against you. She won’t care how great your setting appears or anything else you’ve been doing if you appear in any way ignorant about safeguarding.
Tip 5: Clean and Tidy Your House
Does your push chair look like a biscuit barrel and your high chair look like a science experiment in growing mould? Does your fridge look like an E-coli outbreak just waiting to happen? These sorts of things make a really bad impression and are well within your control to get cleaned prior to your inspection.
Tip 6: Don’t wait to be asked about the great things you do
Don’t spend your inspection thinking, ‘I wish she’d ask me about this,’ or ‘why is she all focused on THIS thing, when I’ve been doing lots of THAT thing really well?’ If she doesn’t ask about something you are proud of, just bring it up. Under no circumstances should you allow her to leave until you have told her everything you wanted to! Plan how you will remind yourself about important things to tell her during the inspection even if it means sticking post it notes on your arms.
Tip 7: Prepare three structured activities
During your inspection your inspector will want to see you doing some structured activities with the children. Prepare three so you have more than you will probably need – under scrutiny of the inspector, you don’t want to seem stuck for ideas. While you are doing these activities she will be watching you like a hawk and making judgements on everything you do from how you talk to the children, to what they are learning, to how well the children behave to you and each other. To avoid becoming a victim of ‘bad luck’ plan the activities you will do carefully and well. And read the Inspection Handbook points 66 and 72 which spell out exactly what the inspector is hoping to see from you.
Tip 8: Train the children
The earlier you start training the children to behave well for your inspection, the better it will go. If you want them to sit still for your structured activities, and eat a healthy snack, and put their own shoes on with the Ofsted Inspector watching then you need to train them how to do these things well in advance of your inspection.
Tip 9: Focus your attention on the children, not the inspector
She is most interested in how you interact with them. She won’t really care if you don’t offer her a chair. She will care if you forget to shut the safety gate because you are talking to her about your ratios, or forget to wash the children’s hands before snack time because you are offering her a cup of tea. (Probably best to just forget the cup of tea).
Tip 10. Appear to know EVERYTHING about the children in your care
There is no excuse for you not to know each child’s development inside and out. You know that she is going to expect you to know this stuff, so make sure you do. You need to know those learning and development areas by heart so read Development Matters. Don’t know the Characteristics of Effective Learning? That’s like handing her a loaded gun. Get your starting points observations, planning and learning journeys up to date so that you can prove that you know where each child you look after is in terms of his or her development, what you can expect them to do next, and most importantly how you are planning to help Problem Child to catch up with the nice, easy ones you look after.
Don’t become a victim of a bad Ofsted inspection! With careful planning you can take control of your day of judgement and help to manage your inspector so that she sees what you want her to see and gives you the grade you deserve. For more tips and pointers including a Count Down to Your Ofsted Inspection Checklist, get your Ultimate Childminding Checklist for only £10 from my website today.
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About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.
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