Moving from ‘inadequate’ to a ‘good’ Ofsted outcome can be quite a challenge for any setting.

I was contacted by the business owners of a large setting in Hampshire early in the Autumn term of 2016 following an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted outcome from their inspection carried out late in the Summer.

The previous Ofsted inspection had been rated as ‘good’ in 2012.

The brief:

Statutory support was being offered by the Local Authority (LA) but the owners wanted to do all that they could to have the best possible chance of an improved outcome.

Their intention was for me to work closely with the management team focusing on the priority areas for improvement detailed in the Ofsted inspection report. The objective being that they would be fully prepared for an Ofsted re-inspection and able to provide evidence to Ofsted of the skills, knowledge and expertise of the whole team to result in at least a ‘good’ outcome at the next inspection.

This was expected at any point up to six months from the last inspection so there was little time.

The offer:

Having met with key staff, been involved in a joint meeting between the LA and the management team, viewed the premises and documentation, observed practice and identified priorities for improvements from the Ofsted report, I was in a strong position to provide a detailed report for the owners.

This set out my initial findings and put forward recommendations for next steps and my support proposal.

‘Debra very quickly reviewed our current operations before presenting a detailed and comprehensive development plan’ (owner).

It was critical that this did not duplicate the statutory support provided by the LA. My focus was to be on the leadership and management and the personal development, behaviour and welfare requirements as these were my areas of expertise.

It included the following, as short and medium term offers of support;

  • A full review of internal training, mentoring, supervision and coaching systems and processes to develop effective practices across the teams
  • A full review of all staffs’ knowledge and understanding of safeguarding and Health and Safety as well as effective methods of keeping staff updated with changing practices and legislation
  • Effective means of self-evaluation at all levels
  • Developing SMART targets for key personnel
  • Ongoing observations and evaluation of senior staff carrying out their supervision meetings, mentoring and coaching of team members and implementing agreed changes to practice
  • Providing 1:1 coaching sessions to develop self-awareness, self-evaluation and empowerment
  • Meetings and reflections with new staff, and those new to their posts to review inductions and to make recommendations for improvements
  • To provide 1:1 support sessions with senior management team, Health and Safety Officers and Lead Practitioners (Safeguarding) to help develop leadership and management skills and knowledge and understanding of their subject areas and to assess the need for any additional bespoke internal training required
  • A full review of systems and processes to support the above.

It included the following, as a longer term offer of support;

  • To consider the need for bespoke Leadership and Management Training.

‘Once the development plan was agreed Debra required only minimal guidance as she progressed the identified objectives’ (owner).

The Solution:

The solution followed the offer as detailed above.

With advice, support and training being provided by many professionals both external and internal it was important to avoid mixed messages and to be sharing information, updating, and communicating as effectively as possible; it was a very large setting with many staff, including part-time, term-time only and relief and casual staff.

There was a real need to concentrate on the priorities and to ensure that the support and action taken by staff was that which would have the greatest impact.

The owners agreed that reports from the LA could be shared with me and that we could liaise as necessary to avoid any duplication of effort.

This allowed me to keep abreast of the support provided by the LA and to focus on work with individuals providing 1:1 support to the new ‘seniors’ appointed, and focussing on strengthening their leadership and management practice; the overarching issue coming out of the Ofsted report.

‘Debra kept us well informed throughout the process using both face to face meetings as well as detailed written reports’ (owner).

The seniors were considered the linchpins of this large organisation and their support, training, mentoring and coaching of team members could also have a positive impact if carried out effectively.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses and aspects of individual team’s practice that needed improving, using ongoing observations and a self-evaluative approach helped to strengthen this skill within individuals and to make changes that had the biggest impact.

I also developed and delivered a short bespoke training package to the senior staff covering leadership and management skills.

The outcome:

The significant and intended outcome from contracting my support service to supplement that support offered through the LA was achieved in early 2017.

The setting was re-inspected by Ofsted achieving a ‘good’ Ofsted outcome. This was quite a feat on account that the previous inspection outcome had been ‘inadequate’.

The staff had worked incredibly hard and had been motivated to do their very best and I feel sure that they will continue to do so to achieve their target of securing an ‘outstanding’ outcome in the future.

Additional Benefits:

I could provide instant telephone or email support outside of the time spent at the setting and was readily available if needed.

The director and senior management team acquired a much clearer insight on internal issues through using an independent advisor with no agenda other than to get the setting to where they wanted to be.

Staff members had the support that was deemed to be best for them as individuals at a time when the senior management team had more strategic priorities requiring action.

More junior staff were happy to use me as a ‘sounding board’ and approach me for advice if needed as I became a more familiar face within the setting through carrying out regular observations and having informal discussions on practice. I had first-hand knowledge and understanding of situations having spent time within each area of the nursery.

Advice, support, mentoring, coaching and training was specifically tailored to the needs of individual staff based on weekly progress and direct and ongoing observations of individual’s practices.

Additional support could be provided by me as an experienced ex-LA advisor, with a sound knowledge of Ofsted expectations and of leadership and management issues acquired through being an EY business owner myself of a multi-site organisation and employing up to 35 staff.

The director and manager received regular updates on legislation and signposting to useful articles and organisations. They also had written reports on progress and aspects of practice where improvement was still required during my work with them.

‘Debra played a large part in identifying and implementing a number of improvement programmes that helped develop the setting in a relatively short period of time. She is a knowledgeable professional who has proven she can deliver and I have no hesitation in recommending her’ (owner).


If this is the type of support that would be useful for your organisation please contact me for an informal discussion or to arrange an initial meeting with no obligation to take up my services.

Client Testimonial

As a result of your recent visit, to our Nursery, I wanted to thank you once again for your support and feedback.

I enjoyed having you visit and experience in our daily activities. Your advice and support was most helpful and has provided me with clear strengths and professional next steps so that the nursery can continue at a high standard.

Your observational report was clear and easy to read providing lots of positive feedback not only on safety issues but on maintaining good practice within the nursery.

You were very approachable and happy to listen, on a one-to-one basis and within my working practice.

I appreciate you spending one-to-one time with me to set SMART targets to develop ways of involving and seeking contributions from team members to strengthen overall practice within the nursery.

I was extremely pleased with how you interacted with management, staff and children showing a real interest in the nursery and its learning atmosphere.

I hope to see you again and share the positive developments of your support and advice.

Senior Nursery Practitioner, March, 2017