Ofsted’s myth-busting on self-evaluation

2nd May 2018

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By Pennie Akehurst

I recently spent time looking at the changes that have been made to several of the documents we use; the EYFS, the Early Years Inspection Handbook AND the Ofsted myths document and was extremely frustrated to read this:

“Childcare providers do not need to produce any self-evaluation documentation, but managers and staff should be able to discuss the setting with the inspector. Inspectors will ask staff about the quality of care and activities they provide, and how well the setting is meeting the learning needs of all children.” Ofsted Myths April 2018

I was disappointed that Ofsted decided to take such a generic stance on something that is of fundamental importance to the leadership and management outcome of an inspection. Here’s my thinking…

If you’re a lone worker such as a childminder, you’ll have a complete understanding of what you do, how you do it and you’ll periodically review your practice to identify strengths, weaknesses and the impact of any actions taken. Your improvement journey begins and ends with you.

When you work in a group care context (childminders with assistants, preschools, playgroups and nurseries) you’ll work with several other members of staff. The more members of staff you have, the more difficult it becomes to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to ethos, policy, procedure and practice. So, we need a systematic way of monitoring and evaluating what we do, how well we do it and the difference it makes to our children, environments, staff, parents etc. to make sure that practice is both effective and consistent across our staff team. That means recording things that are important to help us keep track of our improvement journey. Monitoring and self-evaluation is therefore not something we should do for Ofsted, but for ourselves to ensure that we continue to have an accurate picture of the quality of our provision.

In the Early Years Inspection Handbook, Ofsted say…

“Leaders and managers of settings should have an accurate view of the quality of their provision and know what to improve. Inspectors will consider how well a setting evaluates and knows its own strengths and weaknesses and how it can improve or maintain its high standards.” Early Years Inspection Handbook, April 2018.

If you’re unconvinced by my thoughts so far and you’re still thinking of ditching your self-evaluation documents, ask yourself….How do you cope under stress? What does stress do to your ability to think on your feet or recall information? Do you find an inspection a stressful process? Do you feel that you could do justice to the work of your team just from memory?

Wouldn’t it help to have something to refer to, to jog your memory?

We’re constantly engaged in activities that improve what we do; some are small shifts in practice, whilst others are complex changes that take time. Without writing down where we’ve identified the need for change, the actions needed and monitoring the implementation and impact of those actions, our view of practice and progress is likely to be inaccurate. But self-evaluation documents aren’t just a tool to support continuous improvement, they enable us to celebrate our successes with our staff teams and to recognise how far we have come, which is a strong motivator.

In my humble opinion, we need self-evaluation documentation, but it needs to be meaningful and manageable. We need to record the things that help us to understand how we can better meet the needs of our children and the difference our actions make to the opportunities and experiences we’re able to offer. Mapping out our improvement journey (where we were, where we are and where we want or need to be) is something we do because we want to continue to be the best we can be for our children.

Pennie is speaking at Childcare Expo Manchester. Book your tickets to her seminar ‘Ofsted Inspections: What makes a setting outstanding?’. 

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