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100 Ofsted reports - Part 4: behaviour, attitudes and personal development

A significant change in the Early Years inspection handbook is the new, separate section given to behaviour and attitudes. Formerly part of the 'personal development, behaviour and welfare' section,  it's clear that Ofsted is emphasising the importance of behaviour and attitudes to learning by giving it its own judgement in inspections. How does it first appear in the new framework?

'Inspectors will consider the ways in which children demonstrate their attitudes and behaviour through the characteristics of effective learning' (page 35).

Although attendance is not mandatory, inspectors will still be interested in how providers encourage children’s regular attendance, particularly when those children are in receipt of government funding. Inspectors will continue to look at the ways staff help children to manage their own feelings and behaviour and how their social skills are supported.

We therefore need to be mindful of all the different aspects within this ‘behaviour and attitudes’ judgement:

  •           Children demonstrate  positive behaviour and conduct - expectations of children’s behaviour are understood by all those in the setting and applied consistently.
  •        Children are developing a sense of right and wrong
  •        Children regulate their behaviour according to age-appropriate expectations.
  •        Children listen intently and respond positively to adults and to other children.
  •        Children respond promptly to requests and instructions.
  •        Children are learning to manage their own feelings and understand how these can impact other people.
  •        Children have  positive attitudes to learning - they are motivated, curious, enthusiastic, with a can-do attitude.
  •        Children take pride in their achievements.
  •        Children show confidence in social situations.

Positive behaviour and managing feelings

How are good settings supporting these hugely important areas? Reports have included:

Staff are positive role models. This, and staff’s ability to promote children’s emotional attachments, helps children to behave well.

Children consistently demonstrate excellent social skills and a strong understanding of the rules and routines in the setting. For example, children take turns and praise their friends’ achievements enthusiastically, showing a true understanding of the high expectations staff have of their behaviour.

Staff have high expectations for the children and skillfully support them to follow the rules and help them to learn how to stay safe.

Children behave well and show a high regard for one another.

Children learn to play cooperatively and share resources. This is demonstrated as very young children react with humour when their younger friends demand to share their toys.

Staff offer exceptional support to help children develop the skills that they need to manage their own behaviour. For instance, staff calmly support children who are learning how to engage with a new activity.

Children’s behaviour is exemplary. They display respect for others and listen attentively to staff.

Staff are kind and responsive to children’s needs, paying careful attention to those children who are new and settling in. As a result, children are confident and are learning to behave well. They show kindness towards each other while learning to share resources and take turns.

When children are disruptive, staff take the time to engage with them. They gently explain how the behaviour is stopping other children from playing.

Children are kind, caring and demonstrate good behaviour. They play well together and involve others in their games.

Staff talk to children in a calm manner and help them know right from wrong. They share their behavioural procedure with parents and children so that they know what is expected.

Children behave well. They have a clear understanding of what is expected of them because rules are embedded from a very young age.

Staff are consistent in helping young children manage their own feelings and behaviours. They gently remind children to wait their turn and talk to them about the importance of sharing with others.

Children make good friendships and children of different ages play well together.

Children enjoy their time at pre-school and settle quickly when they arrive. They eagerly find toys and resources that they recognise and play well both on their own and with their friends.

Staff are good role models. They teach children effectively to learn how to manage their emotions and feelings. Children learn to show respect and kindness to their peers and develop early friendships.

Staff encourage children to express their emotions and help them to understand that other people can have different views. Children learn to show consideration for others.

Staff are excellent role models. They show children what is expected of them, for example as they clearly explain why we wash our hands and why we are kind to our friends.

Staff support children’s social and emotional skills effectively. For example, they remind children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

Children learn to share resources fairly, take turns and display positive attitudes to learning.

Listen and respond to instructions

In good settings:

Staff are successful in teaching children about how to keep themselves safe. For example, children listen well and follow the rules when they line up to go through the hallway to wash their hands.

Children are compassionate and respectful of others. They listen attentively to staff and respond positively to directions.

Positive attitudes to learning

In good settings:

Children are absorbed in their play.

Children approach all activities with enthusiasm and determination.

Children play exceptionally well together.  They know all the routines and are keen to have a go at the activities provided.

Children explore their environment with enthusiasm and enjoyment as they confidently communicate with visitors and staff.

Children are extremely eager to learn and are highly motivated. They enjoy meeting new challenges and are proud of their achievements.

Children are encouraged to think for themselves and have a can-do attitude when trying new things.

Staff support children to solve problems and to be persistent in their efforts. As a result, children remain focused on activities even when they encounter difficulties.

Children enjoy their learning. They are inquisitive and motivated learners who are able to make their own choices and follow their own interests.

Children enjoy exploring their natural surroundings and develop a positive attitude towards learning new things.

Pride in achievements

In good settings:

Children are happy, confident and motivated to learn. They are proud of their achievements.

Staff consistently encourage and celebrate children’s achievements throughout the nursery.

Children take pride in their achievements as they successfully use hammers during a woodwork activity. They show physical strength and persistence when using saws.


In good settings:

Children are confident and explore and investigate their environment with growing enthusiasm.

Children demonstrate extremely high levels of confidence. They demonstrate these when they eagerly take on physical challenges.

Children have high levels of confidence in their abilities and in social situations.

Children are happy, self-assured and interact freely and enthusiastically with staff.

Children are happy and confident to ask for help when needed.

Personal development

Inspectors will look for a wide variety of evidence which covers:

  •          Emotional security - how staff make children feel unique, included, safe and secure
  •          Children’s independence
  •          Physical health and children taking managed risks
  •          Health and hygiene

Emotional security

In good settings:

From the moment children start, staff make them feel highly valued. This helps children to develop a strong sense of self and community.

Children are happy and demonstrate they feel safe as they interact with staff and other children around them.

Staff have a good understanding of how to encourage children to develop strong emotional attachments. For example, they provide children with lots of attention, reassurance, encouraging smiles and cuddles when needed. This helps children to feel relaxed and safe and to engage in new experiences.

Children show that they feel safe as they lean into staff for comfort and cuddles.

Staff are good role models and responsive to the needs of each child. Children demonstrate that they feel safe and secure. They seek comfort when they are tired or upset.

Staff are particularly skilled at making sure all children are included. They ensure that all children have enough interaction during larger group activities, particularly those who are quieter in the group. As a result, all children are equally involved.

Children settle quickly because of the extremely well-thought-out and flexible settling-in arrangements.

Staff place children’s personal, social and emotional development at the heart of everything they do. Children grow in confidence as they explore the learning environment and learn to play with other children. They develop good relationships with each other.

Children develop a strong sense of security and trusting relationships with staff, which support their emotional well-being successfully.

Staff encourage children to explore similarities and differences between themselves and others around them. Children explore their own and the festivals of others in the local and wider community.

Through practical activities and learning about festivals, children gain an understanding of their own identity, other people and their communities. This helps them learn to be unique and tolerant of others around them.


In good settings:

Children show good levels of independence from an early age. They enjoy exploring and investigating lots of resources, including natural wood, alongside their key person.

Children learn to be independent from an early age. Staff support babies to feed themselves and encourage older children to manage their own self-care needs.

Staff support children to be independent and imaginative as they play. For example, a group of children gather together play tools and start a building project on a puppet theatre. Staff follow their lead and join in with their game.

Well-established routines throughout the nursery promote children’s independence.

Children have the opportunities to choose where and what they would like to play with in the indoor and outdoor environment. This helps them to develop their decision-making skills and allows them to develop their own likes and dislikes.

Staff encourage children to complete daily tasks independently, for example placing their empty cups and bowls in the designated area after snack time.

Physical health and taking risks

In good settings:

The outdoor environment offers children good opportunities to take manageable risks in their play.

Children’s physical development is particularly well supported. Staff have incorporated ideas from the local schools to increase children’s physical skills in preparation for early writing.

Children have lots of opportunities to play outside in the fresh air and be physically active.

Children thoroughly enjoy their time outdoors. They are independent as they explore the environment and initiate their own play.

Younger children in the early stages of walking are encouraged to safely test out their developing physical abilities.

Children learn to manage their own safety and take appropriate risks as they climb and jump off small tree stumps.

Children manage their own risks well, as they demonstrate how to use tools safely.

Health and hygiene

In good settings:

Leaders provide healthy well-balanced snacks and meals that meet children’s individual requirements and parents’ preferences.

Staff consistently provide healthy food and drinks for children and help them to understand why eating healthily is important.

Staff help children develop healthy lifestyles and meet their dietary requirement carefully. For example, children learn to socialise with others, enjoy eating fruit and know that they need to drink water to keep them hydrated.

Staff consistently promote good hygiene. Older children know why it is important to wash their hands and confidently state ‘to get rid of germs’.



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.

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