26th September 2023 Leadership & Management

Preparing for an Early Years Ofsted Inspection: Effectiveness of Leadership and Management

Part 4 of the insider interview with Julia Maynard, Childcare Director of Happy Orkids Ltd

Welcome back to our ongoing series, ‘Preparing for an Early Years Ofsted Inspection.’ In this latest article, Julia Maynard, Childcare Director of Happy Orkids, explains the importance of leadership and management in the context of an Ofsted inspection. Join us as we explore how effective leadership and management can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your inspection.

Leadership and management plays a pivotal role in the success of an early years setting. Effective leadership sets the tone, direction, and culture of the childcare setting, while efficient management ensures that policies, procedures, and resources are utilised to their full potential, to benefit the learning experiences of children. 

Why is leadership and management important in an Ofsted inspection?

Ofsted’s report, Getting it right first time – Achieving and maintaining high-quality early years provision, suggests that excellent early education and care are underpinned by strong leadership, implying this is what counts most and makes the greatest difference. Strong and effective leadership and management increases the quality of a setting’s work and ensures that all children are helped to reach their full potential. 

When we discussed this topic with Julia, she referred to leadership and management as the ‘golden thread’ in your Ofsted inspection. It should be evident throughout the inspection that your leadership and management is consistent. The inspector will look for signs of effective leadership and management such as: 

Quality Assurance: Being responsible for ensuring that your setting consistently meets and maintains high-quality standards of care and education. Ofsted assesses whether leaders and managers have a clear vision for the setting’s development and can effectively implement it.

Compliance: Leaders and managers are expected to understand and adhere to the regulatory requirements for early years settings. Ofsted inspectors may check or ask if your policies and procedures are in place, up to date, and followed correctly.

Staff Development: Effective leadership and management support the continuous development of staff. This includes training, mentoring, and providing opportunities for professional growth. Inspectors will evaluate whether staff members are well-trained and feel motivated to provide excellent care.

Child Safeguarding: Safeguarding children is a top priority in early years settings. Leadership and management should demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of safeguarding procedures and ensure they are consistently implemented. 

Staff workload and wellbeing: The wellbeing of your staff is paramount in ensuring that they are happy and motivated to provide high-quality care and education. An Ofsted inspector may ask what systems you have in place to manage workload effectively, provide support, and promote a healthy work-life balance for yourself and your team.

Top Tip: use the Ofsted inspection handbook to familiarise yourself with the grading criteria and the ‘leadership and management’ section.

Evaluation is key in strengthening your leadership and management skills

Leaders can bring positive change by identifying strengths and weaknesses of the setting’s work. Being open and honest about the strengths and weaknesses of your setting is a fundamental skill but it is important to never lose sight of the link between the quality of teaching and the children’s learning, development and progress. This could be done by focusing on your curriculum and what is expected of children at different ages and stages of development, and on their progress. Self evaluation should be carried out by all, with leaders encouraging individual staff to reflect on their own practice. They could ask questions like:

  • What is it like for a child here?
  •  What difference are we making, and how do we know?

This encourages practitioners to really consider the learning and development opportunities they are providing to the children in their care and ensure that every activity has a purpose, positive impact and is age and stage appropriate.

Julia explains that the Ofsted inspector wants to see how well you evaluate your setting. It isn’t about what is required but how well you evaluate and review your setting. Effective leadership and management require making sound decisions based on accurate information. The evaluation process provides the data and insights needed to make informed choices that align with your educational goals and the wellbeing of children. Whether it’s adjusting the curriculum, allocating resources, or implementing new policies, evaluation ensures your decisions are evidence-based. 

Organisation is key in effective leadership and management

Your level of organisational skills will become apparent during your Ofsted inspection. It demonstrates your readiness, efficiency, and commitment to delivering high-quality early years education. By embracing organisation as a key component of your leadership and management strategy, you’ll not only streamline the inspection process but also create a more conducive environment for children’s growth and development.

Continuous professional development

Evidence of continuous professional development (CPD) will allow your effective leadership management skills to shine through. Mock inspections are a valuable exercise that not only benefits you but also your staff. By orchestrating mock inspections, you create a simulated environment where your staff can become accustomed to having external visitors assess their teaching and learning practices. This exercise instils a sense of preparedness and eases the apprehension that often accompanies the presence of inspectors. 

Julia also recommends tapping into your local authority’s resources to gain non-judgmental and unbiased feedback. Collaborating with external partners can provide fresh perspectives and constructive suggestions. This external input can be valuable in identifying areas for improvement within your setting. Involving senior visitors in your CPD activities demonstrates your dedication to building your staff’s confidence when interacting with authoritative figures. This can be vital, as educators must be equipped to engage confidently with inspectors, mentors, and other influential individuals in the field.

Activities such as mock inspections and seeking external feedback, can enhance your leadership skills, create a culture of readiness among your staff, and ultimately showcase your commitment to continuous improvement. In doing so, you not only prepare for official inspections but also foster an environment that thrives on growth and development.

For example, you may carry out mock inspections in your setting or utilise your local authority to give you non-judgemental and non-biased suggestions, allowing your staff to get used to having visitors coming into the setting and assessing the teaching and learning you provide. This will also show the Ofsted inspector that you provide opportunities for your staff to reflect on the quality and impact of their provision and practice, whilst building their confidence around senior visitors.

Top Tip: encourage your staff to see Ofsted inspectors as colleagues and professionals, they’re early years educators too!

Coming up in November, we’re excited to bring you Part 5 of our ‘Preparing for an Ofsted Inspection‘ series. In this instalment, Julia will discuss what happens after an Ofsted inspection.

Ofsted Inspections: A Helpful Guide for Early Years Providers

In this guide, we discuss how to prepare for an Ofsted inspection, the 3 I’s, Ofsted’s key focuses in 2023 and more to help you carry out the day as normal to reduce additional pressure on you and your staff to perform.
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About the Author

Content Marketing Executive at Connect Childcare