About Us


100 Ofsted reports - Part 1: vision, reflection, evaluation and drive for improvement

In this first article in our series on the new Ofsted Early Years Inspection Framework, we'll be looking at the requirements around providers' reflective practice, self-evaluation and ambitious vision.

The Early years inspection handbook for Ofsted registered provision (2019) details all aspects of the inspection process and what precisely inspectors will be looking for.

The document states ‘The provider must demonstrate how they will evaluate their service and strive for continuous improvement’ (page 7).

The focus on self-evaluation, reflection and continual improvement is clear throughout the document:

‘Leaders and managers…. should be prepared to discuss the quality of education and care they provide…. Inspectors will consider how well leaders and managers evaluate their provision and know how they can improve it or maintain its high standards’ (page 15).

‘The inspector will discuss how the provider evaluates the quality of its provision, checking whether they take account of the views of parents and the progress made by the children to determine what it needs to improve(page 15).

How has this focus been addressed in the September 2019 inspections?

Reviewing 100 Ofsted early years inspection reports from September, there are clear patterns emerging:

  •          The focus on having a distinct vision for your setting
  •        Making sure effective reflective practice leads to an accurate evaluation of your provision
  •        Robust procedures to implement improvements

Inspectors have identified strengths in settings whose leadership team has a clear vision for the quality of its provision:

The manager has a clear vision for the setting. She works effectively with the team of practitioners to evaluate and develop the environment for children. Together they have created a development plan to enhance their curriculum further. *

The management team has a clear vision about the future of the setting. It listens to staff, parents and children, taking their views into consideration when planning future improvements.

The manager and staff have a shared vision for all children of good-quality care and learning. They are reflective about their practice, committed to continuously improving and work well as a team.

Reports have emphasised the importance of reflection

Once the setting’s vision has been articulated and accepted by leaders and staff, there clearly needs to be a culture of reflective practice in settings, in order to be able to create an accurate picture of what the provision offers, what it lacks, and how it can be improved. Good settings ensure:

The manager has successfully embedded a reflective culture. This motivates and empowers all staff to continuously look for ways to improve the experiences of the children.

The dedicated leadership team has worked tirelessly with all staff to raise the quality of the provision. Every aspect of the nursery has been reflected upon. Parents, children and the staff have all made valuable contributions to this process.

The committed and experienced staff team is reflective and continuously looks at how it can improve the service offered to children and their families.

The manager consistently reflects on the service she provides and how it can be improved.

Since the last inspection, the manager and the staff team have carefully reflected on their practice and made effective changes.

The childminder continuously reflects on her practice and this ongoing self-evaluation enables her to continuously improve the experiences afforded to children.

The manager and senior staff are committed to continual improvement of the nursery provision. They encourage staff to regularly reflect on what they do and how they teach. They help staff identify where they can be even more effective.

Evaluating the quality of provision

To reflect on the provision effectively, settings need to evaluate what it is they are examining. Reflective practice shouldn’t just be about describing what is visible and obvious: practice and provision need to be appraised. Good settings ensure:

Leaders and managers regularly evaluate the quality of provision. They carry out plans so that the pre-school continuously improves.

Comprehensive self-evaluation, informed by staff and parent’s views and children’s progress, helps to identify weakness and areas for improvement.

The manager values the opinions of the committee, staff, parents and children and actively seeks their views when evaluating the provision.

The manager and staff team undertake thorough self-evaluation which takes into account the views of parents and children. This enables them to continuously develop their provision and the experiences they offer to children.

Management evaluate the effectiveness of the nursery with staff. They implement changes to improve outcomes for children, such as grouping children into ability groups.

Management and staff use effective methods to monitor and evaluate the whole of the provision, considering the views of parents and children.

Managers and staff plan and evaluate every part of the setting incisively to ensure all areas of learning are promoted equally.

Leaders are continuously looking to improve and evaluate their nursery, to ensure it maintains its high standards of education and care.

A thorough self-evaluation has been undertaken and action plans are implemented well to drive further improvements.

Highly effective self-evaluation systems are in place and take into account the views of parents, carers and children.

Staff have regular meetings to evaluate effectiveness of their provision and continuously reflect on their practice and the experiences they provide for children.

The manager and senior leaders efficiently evaluate the quality of teaching and the impact on children’s achievements.   

The manager has created rigorous procedures for senior staff to observe, evaluate and improve the quality of provision.

Driving improvement

The process continues. Leaders and staff have agreed a vision, they have reflected on the provision and have evaluated it. Settings therefore need to have a realistic summary of the provision’s strengths and weaknesses. Leaders and staff must have a collective desire and drive for continuous improvement. Parents, carers, children, staff and stakeholders all need to be consulted and their views considered. Good settings ensure:

Leaders encourage continuous improvement in the setting successfully. This is demonstrated by their creation and evaluation of precise plans for improvement.

Enthusiastic leaders and staff strive to make continuous improvements that benefit children and families.

The provider and her staff team are passionate about improving the service they provide.

Detailed action plans are used well, and as a result, they have achieved a good standard provision.

The provider and staff work closely together and with parents to review the quality of provision and make improvements.

Leaders look for ways to improve the setting, taking feedback from parents and the staff team.

Managers have carefully identified areas for improvement since taking over the pre-school. They have focused on building a strong staff team.

Leaders ensure that all staff, parents and their children are fully included in the identification of what needs to be improved in the setting. They monitor this and identify targets for further improvements that will directly benefit the children attending.

The management team and staff have worked extremely hard, since the last inspection, to review and improve practice. Attention to staff training has led directly to a very good level of high-quality, inclusive care and education.


Now we’ve seen how inspectors are describing good and outstanding reflective practice and a continuous drive to improve provision, let’s look at some of the common recommendations that have been specifically made about reflective practice and evaluating the provision:

Focus on supporting new staff in their professional development to raise the quality of teaching to a consistently high standard.

Make more effective use of reflective practice opportunities to help staff develop more expert knowledge of teaching and learning to raise the practice to a higher level.

Make use of the self-evaluation process to continually review practice and to devise an improvement plan, in order to raise the overall quality of the provision.

Extend reflective practice and professional development to continuously maximise opportunities for children to increase their creativity and critical-thinking skills to an even higher level.

There are also a very high number of recommendations that are based on reviewing organisation and routines. This review process is of course an integral part of reflective practice and does need to involve both leaders and staff:

Review the organisation of routines and whole-group activities to make sure that children's play, concentration and explorations are not interrupted.

Revise the daily routine when children become immersed in their learning, to support children's independent learning.

Review and enhance some routines to maximise opportunities for children to lead their play and further extend their already good skills.

Review the procedures in place that support children as they move on to school, considering ways to reduce the disruption that impacts on the emotional well-being of the children who are new to the nursery.

Review the organisation of daily routines and the effective use of equipment in the baby room to enable staff to be more responsive to babies' needs.

Review the management of daily tasks in order to minimise interruptions to children's play and learning. Provide further opportunities for younger children to do things for themselves and manage their personal needs

Review the organisation of the outdoor area so that children benefit from being more physically active in their play

Review the organisation of routine activities to suit the different ages and needs of children, to help capture their interest and fully enhance their learning

Review and improve the organisation of changes in routine to ensure that all staff and children know what is expected of them

Review the organisation of large-group times and the daily routines to make sure all children are engaged and motivated

All recommendations lend themselves to being addressed by an organised system, be it on paper or via the Tapestry Reflections feature.

Tapestry Reflections helps leaders and staff to evaluate the quality of their provision. Practitioners can begin a reflection, keeping it visible only to managers or open it up to all colleagues for their input. Once the reflection is underway, leaders and staff will be weaving the evidence and professional thinking around the issue at hand. Adding photos and videos, flagging the reflection with key concepts such as ‘child-led’ or ‘sustained shared thinking’ or one of the Characteristics of Effective Learning flags, will all help in identifying areas for improvement and action planning.

A good place to start

If your setting does not have an established system in place for reflecting on the provision, a good place to start is to examine one of the recommendations from your last Ofsted report (or from someone else’s!). Let’s take a recommendation from one of the September reports.

The recommendation ‘Help children to develop further their independence and skills in managing tasks for themselves’. This statement could be the title for your Tapestry reflection. You and your colleagues can contribute their ideas and thoughts about how your setting can plan and implement improvements so that children have more opportunities to develop their independence. You can link the reflection to observations of children, or to other reflections that might be relevant, adding photos and videos to create a bank of evidence around this topic. The reflection will grow and develop and become a meaningful and impactful document to drive improvements. The ‘impact’ box at the end of Tapestry Reflections allows you to monitor the outcomes, summarise the development work and either continue it (perhaps with the start of another reflection) or assign an ‘embedded in practice’ label.

To find out more about creating and developing your reflections via Tapestry, please see the tutorials here.

For further information and advice about reflective practice:




Part 2 in this series will be covering the curriculum, assessment and progress tracking.

*All italicised texts are extracts from Ofsted reports published in September 2019.

Helen Edwards
Helen was a primary school teacher before setting up and running her own nursery for ten years. She worked as a Foundation Stage advisor for East Sussex local authority before achieving EYPS with the first cohort of candidates at the University of Brighton. She was an EYPS assessor for two providers in the South East, a reflective practice tutor at the University of Brighton and an Ofsted inspector. She is a Director of the Foundation Stage Forum and a member of the Tapestry Education Group.

User Feedback

Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.