Did you know that between 1st September 2008 and 31st August 2012, a four year period from when the EYFS was introduced, there were 92,601 inspections by Ofsted! That means hundreds of thousands of Early Years practitioners that had to prepare for inspection (and in some cases respond to it). You can read more about it here.
Ofsted inspection is often seen as the big, bad wolf but really it’s there to double check that settings are providing the very best safety, learning and developmental environment for each and every child. This means preparing for a visit from an inspector who will: observe the children at play; talk to you and the children; observe how you and the children interact; check the children’s levels of understanding and if they take part in learning; talk to you about the children’s knowledge/skills/abilities; observe care routines and how they’re used to support children’s personal development; and evaluation your knowledge of the Early Years Foundation Stage. It stands to reason that everyone wants to perform at their very best, particularly given that the report is published online and you have to send a copy to the parents of every child you look after, and anyone else that asks for one.
One of the most overlooked areas, when preparing for inspection, is outdoor space. Just think for a moment how much learning, development and interaction takes place in your outdoor space - whether through structured learning or free flow play. It stands to reason that this is an important area for inspection. To help you get prepared, we’ve got some top tips to tick off. If you’d like some more information on any of those, or some ideas and support, just get in touch with one of our Early Years specialists.
Maintenance - One of the first things any inspector will look at is the safety of your children. If they are using outdoor space they’ll want to see that it’s safe, well maintained and appropriately laid out for the purpose. You can do your own preliminary inspection (to highlight any areas for improvement) or you can ask an expert to come in and do it for you. Don’t worry - everyone has areas that need some TLC from time to time… that’s why we have tailored aftercare packages for all of our play equipment as well as more generic grounds maintenance services.
Relevance - The next thing an inspector will look at is how well the outdoor space is tailored to Early Years children and learning. That means making sure equipment is designed for smaller hands and feet. The best playground specialists will have dedicated equipment that makes it easier for little children.
Learning - We don’t need to tell you that the EYFS includes a wide (and pretty complicated) range of learning outcomes for children. An inspector is going to be looking at how you take these outside and whether you use play and more structured learning time outside. You might want to consider whether your space supports this. Some examples might include taking storytime outside, growing plants to eat, creative drawing outside and opportunities to learn about risk through active play.
Development - We’ve already talked about providing opportunities for children to learn about risk, through active play, but there are plenty of other developmental benefits of outdoor time. These include interaction (with you and other children), working together and sharing as well as reasoning and problem solving. You might want to consider how you promote this in your outdoor time.
Good luck and let us know if we can help!