From Inadequate to Outstanding – How I did it – Part One by Emma Davis

13th December 2016

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Following on from Emmas’ previous blog titled, ‘Learning Journeys – to go digital or not?‘, she explains how she turned an Early Years setting from inadequate to outstanding since she took over as Manager…

Emma Davis - inadequate to outstanding My tentative journey as a Manager of an Early Years setting began in December 2011.  I say tentative as it was not a planned move from Practitioner to Manager and occurred due to a change in circumstances at my setting.  In November 2011, we were inspected by Ofsted and judged to be ‘Inadequate’ which was a tremendous shock, causing our Manager to make the decision to leave with immediate effect.

As the longest serving member of staff and as I had just begun my Foundation Degree in Early Years with the University of Worcester, the parent committee approached me to take over as Manager.  My first reaction was a refusal – I did not want the commitment, stress or pressure of being a Manager.  I saw my role as being with the children, not focused on admin and managing staff.  However, with few options open to us and another inspection looming in as little as six months, I relented and agreed to manage for a temporary period.  This seemed the sensible option as I knew the children, parents, staff, policies and procedures which a Manager from outside would be lacking.

The first few months were horrendous as I had no experience as a Manager, did not know what was expected of me and had to begin the process of reviewing and reworking all documents as we were left with no access to any paperwork other than hard copies.  Issues with our policies, planning and next steps had to be addressed from scratch, requiring a huge amount of research on best practice within Early Years and current legislation.  Many, many hours were spent typing up documents, reviewing them and amending them with me working well into the night.  Just as one challenge seemed to have been accomplished, up popped another issue of which I had no knowledge or experience.  I felt immensely demoralised, especially when I was told by a Professional supporting us that settings graded as ‘Inadequate’ usually got ‘Satisfactory’ at the next inspection rather than a ‘Good’ grade.

As the months progressed, I began to gain a little confidence as I saw positive impacts from the changes I had introduced.  Children were more engaged in their learning and play thanks to flexible planning based on interests and with input from the children themselves.  A café style snack enabled them to have freedom and choice and put an end to them being interrupted from their play in order to join snack at a set time.  I worked hard to engage parents, issuing questionnaires, revamping the website with regular updates on the experiences we were offering the children as well as sending home ‘wow’ slips and becoming involved in projects within the community.

In the Spring of 2012, my workload increased further as we began to offer Extended Services including a Breakfast, After School and Holiday Club.  Just as I felt I was beginning to achieve something, there was a need to review all policies, make adjustments to the environment to incorporate the Extended Services, manage three extra staff and introduce new procedures to ensure a smooth running of the sessions.  The short time frame in which to make the necessary changes was a challenge as the next inspection ended up being just three months away.

Were the changes worth it?  News of our inspection, including the grade achieved, will be featured in my next blog. Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two.

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