It’s the highest accolade for a registered childminder in England – to be graded Outstanding by Ofsted. It shows that their practice is top-notch, and that they are providing a first-class learning and childcare environment.
But while 84% of childminders in England are graded Good or Outstanding, there's just 11% in the Outstanding club*. We talked to some of our Outstanding childminder members to get their Top Ten Tips To Outstanding to inspire everyone to make the push to the next level.
1. Stay calm!
Being relaxed will ensure you’re at your most natural, and are confidently able to demonstrate your good practice. Try not to let the inspector’s presence affect the way you work with the children.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
There’s lots you can do to be ready for your inspection, from reading (and re-reading) the Early Years Inspection Handbook so you know exactly what the inspector will be looking for, to making certain that all your policies, procedures and documents are completely up to date. This document from Ofsted about inspectors' conduct during an inspection will also help you prepare.
3. Be in control of your setting.
Don’t be afraid to put your policies and procedures into practice by requesting the inspector’s ID and asking them to sign the visitors’ book. They may be an Ofsted inspector, but they’re still a visitor to your childcare setting and you should stick to your child protection procedures. And don’t be afraid to challenge them, or explain exactly why you do something the way you do it. If it works for your setting, be prepared to show them why!
4. Get everyone involved
Talk to the children and their parents so they know what to expect, too. The inspector is likely to want to talk to them about their experience of your setting and it’s helpful if parents understand what the inspection is for and why aiming for Outstanding is so important to you. Keep a display folder of all the cards, letters and emails you receive from parents – even Christmas cards that say "Thank you for all you have done this year". Any feedback is important to keep towards inspection, but is also useful to show new prospective parents.
5. Prepare your paperwork
Make sure that you’re displaying relevant certificates and posters and that your paperwork is up to date. Of course, this isn’t something to do just when you know your inspection is looming – try to be always on top of the admin. But when the inspector’s due, make certain that files and records are in order and easily accessible.
6. Reflect on your own practice.
The Ofsted self-evaluation form (SEF) is a great way of helping you think about the way you work. Add in comments and observations from your last inspection and how you’ve addressed them to show your continuous development. Certificates of completion and reflection notes on the training and CPD you’ve done are also powerful.
7. Document the journey
A key feature of the new Common Inspection Framework is how effectively children’s learning is supported in the setting. You can demonstrate this with the learning journals, observations and next steps documents.
8. Stay in the loop
Keep up to date with sector developments through publications like PACEY’s Childcare Professional and follow relevant social media and PACEY Local forums to stay in the loop. Think about how your business might need to adapt in order to meet new developments, for example how could you cater for the increased free early education entitlement?
9. Invest in your business.
Refreshing materials and resources is a great way to keep your setting fresh, and helps promote children's learning and development. Make sure you've got copies of books such as Caring for children with SEND and Common Inspection Framework, British Values and You. Spending out on something like a PACEY Direct Visit can pay dividends in terms of increased confidence, practical advice and renewed focus.
10. Celebrate your success!
Being graded Outstanding is a big deal. Being graded Outstanding time and time again is a fabulous achievement!
With thanks (and congratulations on their Outstanding grades) to Vanina Cooper; Julie and John Dodds; Georgina Jones; and David and Ann Sheppard.
* Figures from the 2015 Ofsted Early Years Report