The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Sam Attwater

21 steps to achieving an outstanding early years Ofsted judgement

Sam Attwater outlines the key things your early years setting will need to do to achieve an outstanding Ofsted judgement.

The common inspection framework sets out how Ofsted inspects maintained schools and academies, non-association independent schools, further education and skills provision and registered early years settings in England.

Inspectors will use all the available evidence to evaluate what it is like to be a child, learner or other user in the provision.

In making the judgements about a provider’s overall effectiveness, inspectors will consider whether the standard of education, training or care is good or outstanding. If it is not at least good, inspectors will consider whether it requires improvement or is inadequate.

Inspectors will also make graded judgements on the following areas:

  • effectiveness of leadership and management
  • quality of teaching, learning and assessment
  • personal development, behaviour and welfare
  • outcomes for children and learners.

Using this four part grading scale:

  • grade 1: outstanding
  • grade 2: good
  • grade 3: requires improvement
  • grade 4: inadequate.

Below are the factors and the steps you will need to show to be judged outstanding.

Learn from expert practitioners

Balancing the needs of children and parents with the requirements to demonstrate progress can result in huge pressure on practitioners teaching the crucial Reception year. Join us at Engagement & Progress in Reception to get advice and updates. 

Effectiveness of leadership and management

  1. Leaders must show that the pursuit of excellence is at the heart of all you do and all the setting’s activities. The vision must be uncompromising about focusing on the achievement of all children and ensure outcomes for children are paramount.
  2. Show that teaching is highly effective and that appraisals, performance management and peer to peer observations have impact on staff practices. In preparation use peer to peer observations to support your staff in getting used to being observed as this is when nerves will show: the most outstanding staff do the strangest things when they are nervous!
  3. Keep your online self-evaluation form up to date and, if you think you are outstanding, judge yourself as such. Remember that outstanding does not mean perfect: show your aspiration for continual improvement.
  4. Talk about the journey of your children and their families from when they started to where they are now and how your curriculum meets the needs of all children. Gaps in achievement should be negligible and how you spend your pupil premium money is crucial.
  5. Show how as a leader you inspire others. This could be shown through not only your setting but also how you have supported other settings and through your place within the community.

Quality of teaching, learning and assessment

  1. The quality of teaching, learning and assessment is outstanding. Show that you have very high expectations of what your children can do. Show how you are closing the gaps between your most vulnerable children and those children who are more able, and show how all your children have highly challenging activities appropriate for each individual child’s stage of development. Remember to demonstrate the characteristics of effective learning.
  2. Have data and assessment information that shows the children’s starting place and the progress they have made with you. Talk about the whole child including parental involvement with their child’s learning and each child’s next steps ensuring these are up to date.
  3. Have evidence of how you engage with your parents including those hard to reach families – remember it is no longer good enough to say ‘I tried’ with hard to reach parents: you must keep on trying.
  4. High standards for children’s behaviour are expected: show your behaviour management procedures and consistency between staff to display clear behaviour boundaries.
  5. Demonstrate your promotion of equality, diversity and British values/your setting’s values – ensure all staff are clear on how to tackle discrimination and are alert to and have a clear understanding of radicalisation and extremism.
  6. It is crucial that safeguarding and welfare meet statutory requirements, all staff are vigilant and children’s welfare is actively promoted. All staff must be trained to support children who are at risk, to report any concerns and should be able to talk confidently about safeguarding.

Personal development, behaviour and welfare

  1. Ofsted will be looking to see that your environment is highly stimulating, that children are extremely motivated and eager to join in with activities. The characteristics of effective learning should be constantly shown and children are encouraged to use their imagination and inquisitiveness and are responsive to adults and other children.
  2. Your policies and procedures must be vigorous and high standards for care and hygiene and meeting the children’s personal needs are shown.
  3. Children are confident and secure in their environment and they have formed strong emotional attachments. Children show how they can keep themselves safe, how to manage risks and that they have complete confidence in their own abilities. Possibly offer a group of children to show the inspector around the setting. They should know the setting as well as anyone and, although they will talk about the good and the bad, this will show that your children have a positive sense of themselves and will demonstrate confident behaviour and respect.
  4. You will need to show that children’s welfare and personal development is fundamental in everything you do – that you teach children about their feelings and the feelings of others and reflect on differences and an understanding of the wider community.

Outcomes for children and learners

  1. Show through assessment, observation and data collection that children, including disabled children and those who have special educational needs, funded children and the most able, consistently make a high rate of progress from their starting points and that they are prepared for the next stage in their learning – show the inspector how your methods lead to outstanding achievements, explain what those outstanding achievements are.
  2. Again demonstrate the characteristics of effective learning, children’s progress at two years old and how you challenge children.

Overall effectiveness

  1. You must have no breaches to the statutory requirements
  2. Safeguarding is effective.
  3. The quality of teaching, learning and assessment is outstanding.
  4. All of the above key judgements are outstanding – one key judgement can be good but you will need evidence to show that the area is improving rapidly towards outstanding.

It is important to treat your Ofsted inspection as a celebration of all you do: a time for you and your team to show off your achievements – be prepared and have everything you want the inspector to either see or know about your setting available on the day.


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