SCA Inspections: What can I expect?
Working in education and shaping minds to enable people to achieve their aspirations is an integral part of any evolving society. It is paramount, therefore, that the teachers of the world are monitored and regulated to ensure the highest quality of education is being delivered. However, for those on the constant circuit of inspection, this part of the job can be stressful and time consuming. At SCA, we believe that inspections should be a positive and constructive experience and takes the approach that a collaboration between the inspector and the childminder is necessary to gain a true insight into any childcare setting. Here are our tips for preparing for your inspection and what to expect:
1. Think of inspections as a positive experience:
Having the right attitude to your inspection will help you keep calm and prepare effectively. Try to think of your inspection as an opportunity to show case all the aspects of your practice you are most proud of. Demonstrating pride in your practice will help to show the inspector that you have a passion for your job. Don’t try to hide the areas you’re not so confident in, instead, highlight them as ‘areas for development’ which you can discuss with your inspector. By doing this you are showing the inspector that you are reflective and are continuously striving to improve your practice and therefore the experiences of the children. Try to remember, that inspectors have been practitioners themselves, they have been in your shoes many times, and they will understand if you are nervous.
2. Safeguarding, safeguarding, safeguarding:
Nothing is more important than keeping children safe. From the moment the inspector walks up your garden path, throughout the entire inspection, this will be at the top of their agenda. Know your safeguarding policies, have them printed out and available for the inspector to see. Make sure these policies are signed, dated and there is evidence that you review them. Be prepared to show your understanding of signs of abuse and how you would address any safeguarding issues. Be confident in how and when you would make a safeguarding referral if necessary. Keep up to date risk assessments of your premises to demonstrate how you minimise the risks to children. Risk assess any outings, including school runs, to show that you are aware of the hazards and how you are teaching children to stay safe. When it comes to safeguarding, you cannot have too much evidence so keep it all in a special designated folder.
3. Understand what the inspector is looking for:
How do you bring the fun into learning? The inspector will be looking for how well children are engaging with the activities you have provided and what skills the children are developing. Talk to the inspector about what you hoped the children would learn from the activities (your intentions) and don’t worry if the children take the activity in a different direction to what you had planned – this is often the case in Early Years teaching! This is a good opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of child-led teaching by explaining that despite planning for a particular outcome instead the children are developing a different set of skills that you had not anticipated.
Inspectors are aware that the presence of someone unfamiliar can unsettle some children, they will not be judging the children’s reactions but assessing how well you support them. Tell the inspector if any children are unsettled and demonstrate that you know your children well.
The rapport you have with your children tells the inspector a lot about your relationships; they will be looking at your behaviour management, how well you model good language skills and how you shape your questioning to encourage children to think.
4. Plan a normal day:
Your inspection is not the time to be ambitious and try out new things. Keep your inspection day as normal as possible so you are giving the inspector a true depiction of how you run your setting. Be mindful that the inspector will want to talk to you and at this point will want to see that you are teaching children how to be independent. Remember, you must always put the children’s needs first so during your conversation with the inspector, keep your attention on the children and interrupt the conversation if a child needs you.
5. Parent comments:
If possible, the inspector will try to see how you interact with parents and will take time to discuss parents’ views of your setting. Regularly ask your parents for feedback and discuss with the inspector how parents’ views are helping to develop your practice. Demonstrate your understanding that education is a partnership between parents and practitioners and therefore good communication is vital. Before your inspection, give parents the opportunity to write the inspector a note, especially if their child is not going to be at the setting on the day.
6. Show and tell:
In a childminding setting, the inspector will be present for a maximum of 3 hours and can only make a judgment based on what is seen and heard at the time of inspection. Before the inspection, make a list of all the strengths you would like the inspector to know and be sure to discuss them. Talk about any recent successful learning activities and the achievements of the children.
Childminding forums will debate at length the ‘statutory paperwork requirements’ but the reality is this: the more evidence you are able to show, the fewer questions being fired at you during your inspection. For instance, if you have concise risk assessments for the inspector to see and observe in practice then this will unlikely be an area for discussion, however, without these documents the inspector will ask you to discuss, in detail, how you are keeping children safe at your setting. Have all your paperwork laid out prior to the inspector’s arrival – inspections can become very stressful and disjointed if the inspector is continuously asking you to produce essential paperwork. By making paperwork easily accessible, you will be able to concentrate on engaging children with the activities you have prepared.
8. Learning Journeys:
Learning journeys are not statutory but let’s be honest, they are essential. Inspectors will look at learning journeys at length to evaluate the variety of activities you are providing children at your setting and how well you are targeting the 7 areas of learning. Learning journeys should give an insight into children’s progress and show that you are identifying their next steps and providing provision to support them. In a sense, learning journeys are a window into what it is like for a child attending your setting. So much evidence can be stored within learning journeys, for instance, asking parents to comment on their child’s learning journey demonstrates the parent/practitioner partnership. Without learning journeys, it is difficult for the inspector to make a judgement on how well children are progressing over time, how accurately you are assessing children and identifying gaps in their learning.
9. Areas for development:
Try to look at your inspection as a tool to improve your practice and give children the very best education you can provide. ‘Outstanding’ practitioners are always striving to do better. Discuss with the inspector the areas you find challenging and talk about how you are addressing them – are you attending a course, seeking support from your agency? Inspectors, often being practitioners themselves, will be able to give you some ideas to help you develop your teaching practice. If you have had an inspection previously, the inspector will certainly assess how well you have addressed your development areas so be prepared to discuss these.
SCA provide pre-inspection support to all our registered childminders. In addition, we offer a post-inspection follow up to discuss with our childminders how we can help support any areas of development. We are always looking out for exceptional childminders to become Agency Managers with SCA and use their skills to support others. If you would like to know more about being a childminder with SCA, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01728 746970.