Ofsted’s new self-evaluation form and how to complete it is looked at in detail by Early Years Update

The Ofsted Security Token – your password

In order to complete their SEF online, providers will need a unique password from Ofsted, called an Ofsted Security Token (OST), and the guidelines for completing the online form. Providers who have not yet received an OST should contact Ofsted on 08456 404043. A downloadable copy of the SEF is also available for those who would prefer to complete it by hand.

The beginning of September heralded a requirement for all early years providers, including registered childminders, to conduct a self-evaluation giving up-to-date information about the quality of their practice. To that end, Ofsted has produced a self-evaluation form (SEF) that can be used, and this is available – with accompanying guidance – on the Ofsted website. While it is not compulsory for childcare providers to use the SEF, Ofsted inspectors will use the most recent form to provide the information they need, prior to an inspection. If the required information is not available on an SEF, providers will need to provide it in some other way – so it makes sense to use it.

The SEF is not in itself a self-evaluation, but provides a structure on which providers can record a summary of the findings of their setting’s processes of monitoring and self-evaluation. It is intended to be used by providers to record well-evidenced judgements that clearly link the quality of their provision to outcomes for children and their families. It must show the impact of the work of the setting on improving services and not simply be a list of initiatives. When completed, the SEF should:

  • give a clear picture of how well your setting is doing
  • provide proof of how you know what you know
  • show what you are doing to build on successes and remedy weaknesses.

The early years SEF has three parts to it:

Part A: Setting details and views of those who use the setting This provides information about the characteristics of your setting and the background of the children who attend. It shows how you seek the views of all those who use your setting and how you use these views to improve the quality of the provision to meet the needs of individual children.

Part B: The quality and standard of the early years provision
This section will help you to assess the quality of your provision, taking into account the children’s welfare, learning and development, and the statutory guidance set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework.

Part C: Information about compliance with statutory requirements
This requires the completion of a table that relates to the statutory requirements of the EYFS framework, and includes information on whether you are registered on either or both parts of the Ofsted Childcare Register.

How to complete the SEF

Part A: Setting details and views of those who use the setting

Part A is subdivided into two sections, both of which require information about your setting.

Section 1: Your setting
In this section, you are asked to describe the main characteristics of your setting and the cultures and backgrounds of the children who attend, including those who have learning difficulties/disabilities or speak English as a second language. This will include details of:

  • the area your setting is in
  • your building and how rooms are used
  • access to outdoor spaces
  • access to and within the building, via ramps, stairs or lift
  • the times you operate
  • the number and qualifications of all staff.

This section should include any specific issues that aid or prevent the smooth running of your setting, such as training attended, recruitment difficulties or reorganisation plans. Finally, you are asked to mention any special features of the provision, such as particular methods of teaching or participation in a quality assurance scheme.

Section 2: Views of those who use your setting
In this section you will show the views of the children, their parents and carers, how you know them, and action you have taken in response to their views. This might include:

  • how you establish effective links with parents
  • how you provide opportunities for parents, carers
  • and staff to ask questions or make comments, and how you respond to these
  • whether parents are represented on the setting’s management body
  • how children are given opportunities to put forward their views and ideas, and how staff respond to these.

You will need to give examples of action you have taken to change your provision as a result of listening to the views of parents, carers, children and staff.

Part B: The quality and standards of the early years provision

Part B is made up of four sections (Sections 3 to 6), each covering a different aspect of the provision:

Section 3: Learning and development
In this section you should take a critical look at what your staff do to help children enjoy learning and achieve as much as they can. It is important that you do not simply list all that you do. Instead, you should explain the impact of what you do on the children’s learning and development. For example:

  • What is your overall approach to learning and development?
  • How do you know the children are making progress towards the early learning goals?
  • What works well? What could be improved?
  • Does planning and assessment link to children’s individual achievements?
  • What are the children doing to show that both your planning and the adult interaction are helping them to enjoy and achieve?

To help you evaluate how effectively children in the EYFS are helped to learn and develop, take account of how the setting’s staff:

  • support learning in their interactions with children
  • plan the learning environment
  • plan children’s play and exploration to help children think critically and be active and creative learners
  • plan for individual children
  • use observation and assessment to plan personalised support for every child
  • involve parents and carers as partners
  • offer an inclusive and welcoming service to all children.

Section 4: Welfare of the children in the early years provision
This section will include your judgements on the effectiveness of what you do to help children to stay safe, be healthy, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and develop skills that will contribute to their future economic wellbeing. You will need to explain the impact of what you do on children’s welfare by making judgements on what works well and what could be improved. You should consider how well the setting’s staff:

  • take steps to ensure that the key people safeguard and promote the children’s welfare
  • promote good health and wellbeing; and whether necessary steps are taken to prevent the spread of infection, and appropriate action taken when children are ill
  • teach children about keeping safe
  • encourage children to develop the habits and behaviours appropriate to good learners, considering their own needs and those of others
  • ensure the suitability and safety of outdoor and indoor spaces, furniture, equipment and toys.

Section 5: Leadership and management of the early years provision
Ofsted will expect to see critical judgements about how well you think the overall leadership and management of your setting promotes children’s welfare, learning and development. You will need to consider how well you:

  • use self-evaluation to promote improvement
  • work in partnership with parents and others
  • safeguard children.

An evaluation of the effectiveness of your self-evaluation will make a major contribution towards a judgement on how well your setting is led and managed. You will need to show how you promote continuous improvement, including the extent to which any recommendations and actions raised at the previous inspection have been acted upon.

When assessing how effectively you work in partnership with parents and others, you should consider how well you:

  • provide parents and carers with good-quality information about the early years provision and their children’s achievements and progress
  • encourage parents to share what they know about their children and to be actively involved in supporting their learning and development
  • liaise with external agencies to ensure that children receive the support they need; and with other providers delivering the EYFS, to ensure progression and continuity of learning and care.

You will already have considered ‘staying safe’ issues in other aspects of the SEF, but this section includes judgements on how all aspects of your provision come together to ensure that children are safeguarded while in your care.

The final part of Section 5 requires you to make an overall assessment of how effective the provision in the EYFS is led and managed. When coming to a judgement, you should consider all of the issues around:

  • suitable people
  • suitable premises, environment and equipment
  • inclusion
  • records, policies and procedures
  • organisation
  • learning and development
  • partnership working.

Section 6: Overall effectiveness of the early years provision
This is the last section of Part B of the SEF and it asks the central question: ‘What is it like for a child here?’

Your evaluation of the overall effectiveness of your provision will depend on how well you promote the five outcomes of Every Child Matters and meet the needs of all children who attend your setting. You will make a judgement on how good your practice is in relation to:

  • how well you promote inclusive practice
  • how well you maintain continuous improvement
  • how effective your provision is in meeting the needs of children in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Part C: Information about compliance with statutory requirements

From September 2008 the law requires that any provider registered on the Early Years Register must comply with the learning and welfare requirements of the EYFS statutory framework. If for any reason you are not meeting any requirements, then you will need to explain which ones you are not meeting and why, and what action you intend taking to rectify the situation.

Completing the self-evaluation form will be time-consuming, but it does provide the opportunity to take a rigorous and detailed look at all aspects of the running of your setting. This should in turn simplify the process of planning strategically for quality improvement.

SEF and guidance