Staging a mock inspection is one of the best ways to prepare for your Ofsted Inspection.
A fresh set of eyes can alert you to problems you might face and help you fix them before the Inspector comes calling!
Making progress is essential if you want to keep or improve your rating. Standing still is not an option. Continuous improvement is key to better outcomes for young people and your service success.
Here are ten strategies the 'best children's homes' are using to achieve good or outstanding outcomes, according to Ofsted's Chief Inspector.
1. Behaviour Management
For many children, testing adults or boundaries or doing risky things can be as a result of low self-esteem or because the children don't care what happens to them.
The best children's homes:
- recognise why children are doing what they are doing
- respond with empathy
- support children to regulate their behaviour, so physical interventions are rare
2. Matching Process
Having effective matching processes for referrals and planned moves into the home is vital. Homes that do this well make sure that:
- placements are suited from the get-go and have the best chance of succeeding. Careful matching secures the ongoing stability of the home for the other children living there
- staff are using clear and straightforward risk assessments and regularly review care and behaviour management plans. The staff team know their children really well and understand their particular needs
3. Inspirational Leadership
In the very best homes, we see inspirational leaders who set high standards. In turn, their staff are dedicated professionals whose skill, enthusiasm and understanding make them excellent role models for children.
- provide consistent care and measured approaches
- demonstrate tolerance and respect for everyone
- importantly, stick with children when they try to push them away
4. Consistent Boundaries
Homes have the most success when they provide clear and consistent boundaries combined with incentives and rewards for children's progress and achievements. In these homes:
- staff help children to understand and regulate their emotions
- there is a reduction in negative incidents, and those that do occur are well-managed, respecting the child, and their rights
- children are involved in their own care planning and, as inspectors saw in some homes, allowed to determine the rewards used. This approach helps children to feel invested in the home. But it also encourages continued positive behaviour as well as promoting confidence and self-esteem
5. Internal Relationships
When disagreements and arguments inevitably occur, the best homes use a restorative approach to help children understand how they impact on each other. This:
- teaches them the benefits of treating one another with warmth and respect
- allows them to explore the reasons behind their behaviour
- helps repair relationships
Staff in good or better homes are specifically trained in understanding cycles of behaviour.
6. Staff Support
I don't think you can underestimate how important it is for the adults working with children to have time to think about their practice. When you combine good quality training with supervision and other support structures, staff are better able to meet the needs of young people.
Some homes also use the skills and expertise of other professionals such as clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and speech and language therapists to guide practice and support both children and staff to good effect.
7. Child Sexual Exploitation
In the best places, staff are highly trained both to support young people and to recognise the warning signs.
- Homes that excel in this area take a holistic approach to protecting children. Multi-agency working is pivotal. Leaders and staff work proactively with local police and safeguarding agencies, as well as other homes in the area, so they are fully aware of potential risks to young people in the community. This approach means there is a cohesive and uniform response to local risks and threats.
- Children tell us they value this kind of individual planning and the sense of stability and clear boundaries it provides. Value is enhanced when staff give children genuine involvement in their care: a common factor across all good and outstanding homes.
- Effective education is vital. In the best homes, staff explore young people's understanding of appropriate relationships, sexual health and online safety.
8. Children Who Go Missing
In the best homes, we see:
- staff focusing their time and energy on finding the missing child
- a good understanding of the children and their individual needs, so they are usually able to locate them quickly
- agreed strategies in place to deal with missing episodes
- close work and coordination with families, police and other agencies
- And then, importantly, staff work proactively with children to support them and ensure that they understand the risks of repeatedly going missing.
- Effective education, again, is vital.
9. Children With Autism and Complex Disabilities
Many homes specialise in caring for children with autistic spectrum disorder or other complex disabilities and do so very well. This group of children has unique needs, so specialist training and expertise are essential to ensure that children achieve the very best outcomes.
Those homes doing particularly well first and foremost ensure that placements are stable.
Staff in the best homes:
- have an in-depth understanding of children's needs
- are nurturing
- show emotional warmth towards children
10. Emergency Placements
While a well-planned placement usually has the most chance of succeeding, some emergency placements will always be necessary. I know from my previous experience how we all try to avoid these emergencies, but sometimes things happen. Whether this is due to a sudden breakdown of a previous placement or other unforeseen events such as a parent being taken to hospital, staff in the best homes are well equipped to manage them.
In addition to the take-away’s listed above, the article considers the role of inspection saying;
'We sometimes hear of homes using Ofsted and our inspection judgements as a reason for not taking on certain children. I hope that, as with so many things, this is not the case. I suspect that homes that are sufficiently confident in what they do well do not hide behind inspection but learn from it.’