Planning with purpose

Planning with purpose

Ofsted may have removed the self-evaluation form from its set of requirements during inspections of early-years settings, but freelance consultant Sue Asquith says that leaves many settings with a dilemma. She asks ‘where do we go from here?’.

A passage in the Early Years Inspection Handbook 2019 reads: “Leaders and managers of settings should have an accurate view of the quality of their provision and know what to improve. They do not need to provide a written self-evaluation, but should be prepared to discuss the quality and care of education they provide – and how well they meet the needs of their children – with the inspector. Inspectors will consider how well leaders and management evaluate their provision and know how they can improve it or maintain its high standards.”

Reading into that statement, Sue says that what inspectors are really focused on now is the impact a setting is making on its children.

“Ofsted says you don’t have to produce a written self-assessment, so if you are confident enough to explain to the inspector on the day what you do and how, that’s great,” says Sue. “But there has to be a whole-team approach. If you’re staff are asked questions, would they be as confident?

“There are also lots of super-passionate leaders in this sector, who are really proud of what they are doing and their vision, but they are not always able to talk about the impact they are making. There is no point having a great vision and spending lots of money if you are not [able to show that you are] making an impact.”

This is where some form of written documentation can still be very valuable. Whether you share this work with Ofsted or not – and the inspection body has expressly asked you not to – it could prove the difference in the grade you receive on the day of inspection. Sue says the process of collecting information, considering what it is telling you and identifying your areas of strength and comparative weakness is extremely useful for any setting looking to put together a cohesive action plan that focuses on development and improvement.

Here’s her step-by-step guide to producing an action plan:

Collect information:

  • Most businesses have a mission statement, which should be central to what they do. Is yours?
  • Go through your last Ofsted report and familiarise yourself again with the action points.
  • Involve all stakeholders, outside agencies and organisations. Ask them for their opinions and suggestions – until someone tells you what they think, you won’t know if they are satisfied or otherwise with what you do

Decide on your areas for development, by:

    • Looking at your Ofsted report again - does it feel personal to you or reflect you?
    • Examining national initiatives and how you include them in your business
    • Analysing your safeguarding arrangements, your SLC and SEND provision – are they up-to-date and is there anything happening in these areas you should be aware of?
    • Asking yourself whether the quality of your provision is evident in every room, across every age group and in specific areas of your business
    • Monitoring your CPD – are all of your staff getting the right training or are there areas that could be improved? Is your budget sufficient?

Areas and ideas to look at:

      • Oral health is a really big deal in some areas. Have you recognised that?
      • Physicality is huge too. It’s worth thinking about the 180-minute guideline for movement each day, especially if children are with you full time. Are you measuring whether you are allowing children to have their recommended time outdoors?
      • Cohort tracking / reducing paperwork – even though Ofsted don’t want you to produce SEFs, they are not saying stop collecting data. But it needs to be done for a purpose, so is it should be manageable, pertinent and useful?
      • Risk benefits – are you over-assessing risk or asking ‘if children don’t do this, what would happen?’
      • Parents and the Home Learning Environment – Do you know your parents well enough to help them to help their children to continue learning when they are at home?

Once you have gone through this process, you have the required information to formulate a plan. Every action plan, of course, needs a set of goals, as well as a set of criteria by which you measure success. You should also stipulate who is responsible for monitoring progress, evaluating success or otherwise and set regular review dates to ensure that the work you’ve put into the plan is not wasted. Involving your team, parents and other stakeholders in this process is to be encouraged, as is a transparent process of reporting the progress of the plan to the team and, where relevant, externally.

Sue says: “However you do things, it has to be relevant to you. It doesn’t have to be written down if you don’t want it to be. Ask yourself what you are doing that is purely for Ofsted and then review all of your paperwork to see what really makes a difference and what you are churning out that is being used by no-one.”

The number-one aim should be that everyone in the setting can speak about the things that matter most passionately when it comes to that fateful inspection day.

“Ofsted aren’t as bothered about how you’re doing things any more - though you still need to know, of course. Your self-assessment, development and action plan should focus on Intent, Implementation and Impact and if you talk to your staff using this kind of language, when the inspector comes, it will be more accessible to them,” Sue says. “Rate yourself and know why you have given yourself that rating.”

If you’ve given yourself an Outstanding because your setting’s provision is making a tangible, positive impact on the children you care for, then you can embark upon that inspection in a confident mood.

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