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How To Make An 'inadequate' Setting Sound 'adequate' F


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My friend has just been promoted to manager of a day nursery which was rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted at their last inspection (she didn't work there then). From reading the last inspection report, it seems that the points for improvement have not yet been addressed, although my friend is desperately trying to address them now. Ofsted are due imminently.


One of the 'jobs' she has inherited is the SEF, but unfortunately she is finding it very difficult to complete it, without showing the nursery in a negative light. Things are improving, slowly but it is still not enough to paint a more positive picture.


I can't give too much more information because the nursery would be easily identifiable. It is frustrating because there is so much to be done and here is the best place to ask for guidance and support. My friend is tearing her hair out at what she has been left with and the battles she faces from the owners. It is a sad situation but she needs to put something down for SEF.


What advice can I give her? It really isn't me by the way, I'm loving pre-school and my role there!

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Hi Clare.

Its a tough one when you work in an inadequate setting, but I am guessing (and hoping) that an inadequate in your LA will immediately spring their support into action. Obviously this will differ from LA to LA, as some LAs withdraw funding following an inadequate inspection. If this is not yet happening then your friend needs to make contact with them.. the support of the LA in improving practice can be quite key to a future inspection.


In the meantime, what they need to do is look at each of the actions that led to the inadequate and consider how they will be put right.. if your friend was promoted to the position, did she already work there? They will need an action plan or similar covering each of the points, detailing HOW they are going to improve them. To be honest, I would make this the immediate focus rather than completing a SEF... their action planning would be their self evaluation It is important that all of the staff are involved in this as they need to take ownership..it isn't something a manager can do on their own.


When OFTSED return which could be within 6 months-1 year, they will expect to see the actions addressed and evidenced.. so an evidence folder isn't a bad idea either.


When one of the settings I support got an inadequate, they kept things like:


before/after photos of changes made in the environment

Photos of events with parents

minutes form staff meetings with actions

a regularly reviewed action plan which was very thorough

training file, including how any training is shared with staff.


These were pertinent to the issues raised by OFSTED. Your friends may be different.


I hope that helps get your friend started. Im sure if you are able to mention specific areas to improve, between us here, we can suggest ways to do this. Some examples from the inadequate inspections I have seen include


Specific breaches of welfare requirements

Poor behaviour management

lack of stimulating environment

lack of knowledge of the EYFS

poor interactions

lack of any kind of monitoring progress

poor leadership and management


these are just examples..very often it will be a combination of things that lead to an inadequate.


Good luck to your friend

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this sounds like brilliant advice ...remeber the sef is not compulsory - your friend just needs to make sure she is evaluating and an action plan would be more helpful at this time IMO. Wish her luck - i guess the only way is up :o

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Thats the way I always used to deal with Ofsted, know whats wrong, know how I'm going to address it and get it timed. Always be one step ahead of them. Good luck to your friend :o

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My theory is that the 'priorities for improvement' on the SEF are what is vital. If your friend can show that she knows what needs doing, she has figured out who must do it (action plan), and she has identified which tasks are most urgent and which can wait a bit, that should be enough. So long as she can maintain 'continuous improvement' that is what is vital, not imagining that everything can be done instantly.


I would go first for anything related to child protection, so make sure all CRBs are up to date, references have been done on staff, and so on. Then look at the welfare requirements, and only then worry about the learning side of things.

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your friend just needs to make sure she is evaluating and an action plan would be more helpful at this time IMO. Wish her luck - i guess the only way is up :o

If she does decide to do the SEF but doesn't actually get around to uploading her SEF then make sure she has a copy of it with her so that if she gets the knock she'll be able to give it to her inspector straight away.



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Things can be not so good, but if you can demonstrate capacity to improve this can go a long way towards an overall satisfactory.


Leadership and management have to be OK though.


She needs to be demonstrating that:

1) the issues are accurately pinpointed and that self evaluation is driving the process of change.

2) That there is a detailed action plan with specific measured outcomes and they are time specific - not just a "to do list" as I saw one called in a recent Ofsted!

3) She is building the capacity to change within the setting and that the team are on board and working together on this - all leaders are able to sing from the same song sheet and show they are part of the solution. Accountability is clear and people are held to account for their part in the actions.


It's tricky but this builds a capacity to improve which really demonstrates strength rather than weakness.


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Thank you all for your replies! I'm feeling much more positive on her behalf now!


Basically the setting has had quite a big safeguarding issue. This came about because staff were not supervising the children appropriately and, when the accident did happen, the then manager failed to follow the policies and procedures she had written herself for the nursery. One of these procedures involved calling an ambulance before contacting the parents.


As a result, a complaint was (quite rightly) made to Ofsted, who then came and inspected the setting, based on the points raised in the complaint. The setting was issued with 11 or 12 (can't remember which) points that had to be addressed as a matter of urgency. These were mostly related to the safeguarding issue, but in addition, they raised the point that the baby unit was being staffed by unqualified staff members and obviously this is not allowed. The then manager felt that the staffing situation in the baby unit was ok, because even though the staff were unqualified, they were all CRB checked. This was a situation that was already identified by my friend, and through thorough reading of the EYFS, the issue was made right. She now has a L3, 2xL2 and a trainee working in the baby unit now.


Another issue that has been raised is the lack of observations and planning for children's next steps. Staff do not know how to observe children and this is having a knock on effect because the children's needs and interests are being overlooked. Staff training was arranged, which all staff attended, but still they seem to be really struggling. My friend and I have been working pretty much non-stop to update the children's profiles, some of which have had no observations or evidence put in them since 2007/2008. We are observing the children, both snapshot and narrative, and planning next steps from these. Slowly, we are collecting evidence for these activities which is going into profiles. The problem is, that none of these staff members seem to have a clue how to do basic things ie observations.


I could go on all day about all the things wrong. My friend and I got to the 'provision' part of the SEF and then drew a blank because to be honest, although things are getting better, there is nothing really good about it or that one would want to shout about on the SEF.


In addition to these recent events, there is also the matter of the last Ofsted report which had quite a few points for improvement on. The inspection was in 2007 and the points have still not been looked at, with the exception of the policies and procedures, but these were re-written following the safeguarding incident.


At the time of all this, my friend didn't work there, but she came from an 'outstanding' setting and so is finding this all a bit of a culture shock! I think she is doing extremely well though, given some of the issues that she is up against.


Thanks again for all your replies, I am going to speak to her today about implementing an action plan instead of SEF for the time being and shall pass on all your great advice.

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Hi Clare, what is your involvement in the setting, are you volunteering or just being there to support your friend?


The safeguarding actions should have been done and documented and sent to OFTSED..has this been done?


The issue of observations is a big one, and impacts hugely on a setting. It is something we tend to assume everyone knows how to do, when actually, no they don't, it's a skilled role and some people struggle with it more than others. And as you say your friend comes from an outstanding setting, so huge culture shock for them.

One thing I would recommend if you haven't done already, is joint observations with individual staff and yourselves. I have often found that practitioners who are struggling find this really helpful, we observe the same child and then discuss what we have seen. Sometimes I would just break it down into smaller chunks, eg lets look at communication, or just aspects of PSE. Ive then done staff meetings on Leuven scales, because they often pick out the visual cues we may otherwise miss. How this is reviewed can then form part of staff appraisals, if they are not running yet then I would recommend that too. Be prepared for progress to be slow, especially if there are other issues to address as well.


Good luck!

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Thanks Mundia.


My involvement is a bit of both really; volunteering and support. I have been approached about a deputy role but at the moment, I am happy with my role at pre-school. We have just been through Ofsted ourselves and it is my mission to make us outstanding (we got good in all areas) at the next one! At the moment though I am supporting my friend with staffing issues within the pre-school, she has just recruited some more qualified staff which is fantastic and obviously during the settling period, they need that extra support. I am basically overseeing the pre-school room at the moment whilst doing a bit of admin and butting my nose in pretty much everywhere lol.


The safeguarding actions have been done and documented. The evidence was sent to Ofsted and they came to inspect the setting again to make sure they were done. They were happy with the outcome so that is one less thing I suppose.


I like your idea of joint obs. I may suggest that to her tomorrow. The trouble is is that these staff members are even struggling with more simple tasks like following the daily routine and without wanting to sound nasty, I am not really surprised they are struggling so much with observations.


To be fair, over the last month, my friend has piled on the pressure a bit and the staff are now recording their interpretation of events, which again is fantastic but what they are recording, isn't really telling us anything. We are finding it hard to pull out any next steps from them so end up doing all the obs, snapshot and narratives and the planning ourselves. When the staff are approached about it, they either tell us they don't understand what is being asked of them (pretty basic things in my opinion though) or they are just deliberately 'rebelling' because they were mates with the old manager.


It's really frustrating because the nursery has the potential to be really good.


Staff appraisals were due to take place but because of the massive amount of work to be done everywhere else this has been put on hold temporarily. However, there are a few staff members nearing the end of their probationary period and they all have review appointments to attend with my friend.


Progress is slow but things are going in the right direction. It doesn't sound much like it from what I'm writing here, but if you could have seen it three months ago, you really wouldn't believe the difference.

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Goodness - you've a busy year ahead by the sounds of it!


When I have a student in, or someone who is unfamiliar with how to observe, I give them something to look for. So I go to the development statements and pick one fairly at random - it could be something like "Seek out others to share experiences" or something and they use that one criteria for a morning, watching the children and noting down what they see. We then look at their notes together and interpret what they've seen which might show that some children aren't sharing their experiences, so we could note down that that's something to look for again, or use as a potential 'next step' in some way.

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Tried to reply yesterday, but internet went down...


Don't know if the setting has support from LEA (you didn't say), but our Liaison teacher came into a staff meeting to support us all with observations, the next step and how this feeds to planning - really easy to understand, but clearly useful.

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When the staff are approached about it, they either tell us they don't understand what is being asked of them (pretty basic things in my opinion though) or they are just deliberately 'rebelling' because they were mates with the old manager.


Staff appraisals were due to take place but because of the massive amount of work to be done everywhere else this has been put on hold temporarily. However, there are a few staff members nearing the end of their probationary period and they all have review appointments to attend with my friend.


If the same staff that are rebelling or aren't up to scratch are the ones that have the review meetings I hope your friend is going to 'take the bull by the horns' so to speak and pull them up on it or start procedures for terminating their employment. She needs to take a firm hand now and possibly get rid of the 'dead wood' so that the nursery can move forward. Yes it's a shame for the staff, and it might be difficult and cause a few problems initially but in the end it's the children who need to come first and they deserve more than inadequate staff!


I've been on supply in a nursery where the manager was in the 2-3 year old room trying to change things. She had all these talks with the staff about what needed to change and what should be expected of the children where they all nodded and agreed, then as soon as she was out the room they all moaned about how it wasn't their fault/was impossible/too much work and worst of all shouldn't be expected of the children (who they seemed to think were too young to be polite or do anything for themselves)! I left before it was resolved, but it was very clear that their were a core of staff with a poor attitude dragging the attitude of rest down with them.

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