In this series of articles, we are looking at Ofsted inspector’s comments regarding Outstanding schools.

In this article, we will be looking at their comments in relation to Early Years Provision.

Ofsted comments about the dedication of the staff:

Leaders, teachers and teaching assistants in the early years are extremely dedicated to ensuring that children get the best start.

Leadership is highly effective, with a strong emphasis on providing care and nurture as well as challenge and ambition.

The high quality of phonics teaching contributes to this success.

and their ambition for the children:

They plan activities which consistently provide the right level of difficulty for all ability groups.

Leaders have ensured that the early years curriculum is interesting, engaging, broad and balanced. Children develop curiosity and want to find out more. Most activities have a clear purpose behind them and build upon what the children have previously learned to do.

Two schools which were judged “Outstanding” overall were only “Good” for Early Years:

However, questioning is not always precise enough to challenge children, particularly the most able, to deepen their learning and further enhance their vocabulary.

Inspection evidence confirms that the most able children could be further challenged to make even better progress in writing and mathematics.

Staff put plans in place for pupils who need additional help:

Detailed observations, immediately after they start, help adults understand children’s specific needs and abilities. Where gaps are identified, such as in reading, writing or number work, children are quickly supported to acquire the necessary skills.

Children who are in need of additional support for their learning are identified quickly. They achieve many of the early learning goals because they receive timely and effective support.

Children make rapid progress from their overall typical starting points because of adults’ correct and detailed assessment of their needs and teachers’ prompt action to take them to the next step.

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The inspectors look at the pupils’ behaviour:

Children play well together. They show respect towards each other and have impeccable manners.

They listen well to adults and behave very well.

They listen to their teachers carefully and follow instructions without delay. This means that learning time is used to maximum effect. They are kind and thoughtful to each other and play very well together.

Disagreements are rare and, when they do arise, children try to overcome their differences, confident that adults will help them if needed.

Within three weeks of starting, children are sitting patiently, eager to learn, with their ‘looking eyes’ and ‘listening ears’.

and also their activities

Children enjoy writing for a purpose. Children demonstrated this when issuing boarding passes and baggage check-in slips in the “airport” and writing cards to family members.

For example, three girls took turns to telephone guests and invite them to a birthday party in the role-play area. Another group of children shared glitter, stars and paints as they decorated boxes. One girl proudly announced, ‘We’re being creative.’

For example, to secure number bonds, children were observed selecting cupcake cases which contained a range of different numbers. They then confidently created and then solved their own addition problems.

For example, children are engrossed when they pour water down a guttering pipe, finding different materials to make boats which will float.

Children enjoy playing at being ‘the teacher’ in a specific area set up for this purpose, where they practise their letter sounds well.

…children were building the Eiffel Tower from blocks. They repeatedly looked back at a photo to ensure the blocks were correct, and the teacher encouraged them to use appropriate words as they discussed different options. This finished with the fun and controlled ‘danger’ of the tower collapsing.

and also what they know:

When talking about learning from earlier in the year, one child explained clearly to an inspector that the thing around the planet Saturn was not a ‘hat’ but a ring of rock and dust.

Click here to view our guide to Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP)

All of this leads to high levels of progress for the children:

Children thrive in the early years and make rapid progress. They are very well prepared to start key stage 1.

The majority of children start school with skills and knowledge broadly typical for their age. … In 2016 and 2017, the proportion of children reaching a good level of development by the end of Reception was well above the national average.

Children make strong and sometimes exceptional progress developing their knowledge, understanding and skills. Given the low starting points of many children, the higher-than-average attainment at the end of Reception is impressive.

This represents outstanding progress from children’s starting points.

Parents’ reactions to these schools are clear:

One parent wrote that her daughter ‘is making excellent progress and is very happy and secure’, adding that ‘the school’s inclusivity is second to none.’

As one commented, “My children love attending this school. They love their teachers in Reception and, as a result, try their hardest to do well in their work.”

One parent voiced the opinion of many, stating: ‘This school concentrates not only on the academic side, but also on the overall development of the child.’


We hope that you have enjoyed this article.

This was based on 42 outstanding schools whose Ofsted Inspections Reports were released between September 2018 and January 2019.

For the full set of articles on Ofsted Inspections – click HERE

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