Nursery manager Victoria Byrne gives her advice for preparing for that all-important phone call…
As soon as the office phone rang at 11.30am on October 4th, 2022, I had an idea of who would be at the other end.
I’m the manager at Mama Bear’s Day Nursery and Pre-School, in Torquay, and our last inspection (when we were rated ‘good’) had been in 2016, so I’d been expecting ‘the call’ at any time.
And sure enough, when I picked up the receiver, it was to be notified of a visit the following day.
Not only was I not surprised, I was actually somewhat relieved; I knew that, as a team, we were ready for Ofsted, and this would be our chance to shine.
The inspector was very thorough on the phone – she asked a range of pre-visit questions and we talked through what would happen on the day.
After hanging up, I gave myself a couple of moments to process what had just happened, before following company procedure and informing my area manager and Head Office of the notification.
Then came the most important step: briefing my staff.
As this was our first inspection under the new framework, I made sure the emphasis was strongly on the learning walk and what would be going on in the rooms.
I wanted everyone to feel empowered, and know what to expect from the visit.
As a team we planned our activities, ensured we had all the appropriate resources, and double-checked paperwork.
Since starting my childcare career in 2009, I’ve taken a BA hons degree in Early Childhood Studies, achieved Early Years Teacher Status – and in 2021, I was awarded a Masters in Education.
All of this has contributed to building my confidence in understanding how children learn, and how to deliver a balanced and challenging curriculum.
It’s at the heart of what we do at Mama Bear’s, and that’s what I wanted my staff to keep in mind; a few had never been in an inspection before, and were feeling understandably nervous, so it was important to answer their questions and put them at ease.
I reassured them that they would be great, reminded them how well they knew their children, and just encouraged them to be themselves.
The visit itself was very calm and professional. It didn’t feel intrusive at all, and the staff and children managed to enjoy a relatively normal day!
I was pleased at how smoothly it all went – we’d put together a plan during the original phone call, and were able to keep quite closely to it, meaning that everyone knew when their activities were likely to be observed, and in what order.
Managing to stick to the plan helped me feel in control of the process, and my staff and I all felt comfortable talking to the inspector, and answering her questions.
In terms of what was covered - I was asked particularly about staff recruitment and the challenges we have faced as a setting; the inspector was also keen to hear about training and continuous development.
There were also many questions about SEN, how we support our children who receive EYPP, and how we have positively affected learning opportunities for all.
My advice for anyone preparing for an inspection would be to brief your staff fully: let them know exactly what is going to happen during the inspection, as far as you can.
Decide what activities you will be doing and ensure you have all the resources you need.
I would encourage you to try and keep your day as normal as possible - do not try anything new that could confuse staff or children.
Lastly, try and enjoy the experience; this is your time as a team to show your nursery at its best.
I am incredibly proud of my staff. Going into the inspection I had complete faith in them; I knew we had so many good things to show.
‘Outstanding’ is what I strive for every day, and try to inspire my team to be – having this recognition reinforces a sense of achievement for all of us.
The number of congratulations we have received has been overwhelming. And of course, it doesn’t end here.
We will continue to work hard to maintain standards and improve even further, ensuring that the children we care for will continue to benefit from the highest quality care and education, which will help prepare them to flourish and succeed later in life.
Victoria Byrne is manager of the Outstanding Mama Bear’s Day Nursery and Pre-School, Torquay.