From Inadequate to Outstanding – How I did it – Part Two by Emma Davis
22nd December 2016
Following on from the previous blog where I described my experiences of taking over the management of an ‘Inadequate’ setting, I will now go on to reveal whether the hard work was worth it. How did we get on…?
On the morning of 16th July 2012, a member of staff said the dreaded words “I think that might be an Ofsted Inspector at the gate” and sure enough, a day of evidencing our incredible eight-month journey began. Policies were scrutinised, staff were quizzed, planning and data were examined in detail and I had what seemed like an endless interview. However, the hard work paid off as the Inspector judged us to be a ‘good’ setting. A sense of disappointment followed when we were told that we would have been given an ‘outstanding’ but we could not show that the huge changes were sustainable long term. This was a blow but in hindsight, now we have achieved outstanding, I can happily say that we did not deserve it on that occasion. I am confident that we were in fact ‘good’ and was overjoyed that we’d achieved our initial goal – we’d gone from Inadequate to good with a new Manager, changes to the staff team and sessions we were running, completely new documentation and a whole new way of running the setting. Most of all, I was happy for the parents that they could feel confident in the care we offered.
Following the inspection, I started a renewed drive to raise standards even further. Being so close to an Outstanding grade made me reflect on what other changes were necessary to improve the quality of care and the experiences of children attending. I recognised a key feature of a quality setting is a good level of engagement with parents as this can have a significant impact on a child’s learning and development. One of the first changes was transferring to an online Learning Journey system with the aim of improving the way we communicated with parents and shared information about their child’s time with us. In 2014, I implemented Tapestry which achieved the aim of engaging with parents through the observations we were posting, available online 24/7. Parents began commenting on the posts we were adding and as well as uploading their own information and photos about the child’s experiences at home. Photos and observations acted as a starting point for conversation, in setting and at home, promoting communication and language and personal, social and emotional development.
Recognising that engaging with parents was key, I reviewed our means of communication, offering them even more ways to keep up to date with news, events and information so they felt involved and included. A successful addition to the setting has been the Facebook page which shares our experiences and offers an alternative way to engage in this modern, technological era. Although I also run a Twitter account for Busy Bees, this is more useful for interacting with other settings as well as keeping up to date with best practice and current legislation.
Regular audits of the provision ensure our environment is conducive to children’s play, learning, development and exploration. Resources are easily accessible, choice boards are used and children are always involved in the planning which allows them to feel included and valued. Training is essential to raising the standards of the care we offer and I show the importance of this through my own desire to learn and improve my practice. Following five years at University, I now have my Foundation Degree in Early Years, a BA Hons. in Integrated Working with Children and Families and also qualified as an Early Years Teacher this year. Practitioners complete termly training plans, offering them opportunities to suggest courses they feel necessary to improve their practice as well as developing their interests. This all works towards developing a knowledgeable, cohesive team who value the input of the children they work with.
In April this year, we were inspected by Ofsted as part of the usual inspection cycle and were delighted to have been graded as ‘Outstanding’. The process of getting here has been challenging and overwhelming at times but I feel an enormous sense of pride for the staff, parents and children that together we achieved something incredible. So, where do we go from here? The future means not only maintaining the standards we set to achieve ‘Outstanding’ but constantly looking at ways to build on and improve the quality of care and education we offer. This will be achieved through reflection on practice and the provision we offer, incorporating the views of children and parents and continuing to invest in training. The life of a Manager is ever changing but, although it can be a lonely role, it can also bring with it a sense of pride and accomplishment.