What Ofsted will need to know about supervision in your setting

It’s September and a range of settings are asking me what changes have taken place in the range of statutory safeguarding guidance they know they must comply with.

Well, the good news is that, compared to last year, changes have been minimal.

‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2018) remains the same.

‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (2019) was updated in September, but the changes are very minimal (two changes that come to mind are that any references to ‘local safeguarding children boards’ which, from July 2019 no longer exist, have been changed to new ‘local safeguarding partnerships’, and a small reference is made to the new sexual offence of ‘upskirting’).

But for those registered settings preparing for Ofsted this year, refreshing your knowledge of the new School Inspection Handbook (2019) from Ofsted will be vital. One new aspect in particular caught my eye. In the new inspection framework, Ofsted inspectors will be looking at how schools consider staff well-being under the leadership and management judgement. (School Inspection Handbook (Ofsted, 2019) p64)). And by wellbeing, Ofsted includes effective staff supervision. Although supervision has been mentioned in statutory guidance for some time, it has been brought into much greater focus in the new Ofsted Framework. Staff supervision is mentioned as one of the signs of successful safeguarding arrangements:

“Staff and other adults receive regular supervision and support if they are working directly and regularly with children and learners whose safety and welfare are at risk”.

Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings (Ofsted, 2019) p10.

What exactly is supervision?

Despite the importance placed on supervision by statutory guidance, it’s not uncommon for me to find that some settings, particularly those in the education sector, have no clear understanding as to what exactly it is, and therefore why it is so important. Here are some of the things I’ve heard from settings when I’ve asked about supervision:

‘Staff can come to me if they have any problems, they know my door is always open.’

‘Oh yes we sometimes have 1:1 planning meetings between management and staff when they’re needed.’

There is (unhelpfully) no statutory definition of exactly what supervision is, however. Here in my mind is one of the best, and I’d advise that if your setting has a Supervision Policy (which I suggest it should), you use this:

‘’an accountable process which supports, assures and develops the knowledge, skills and values of an individual, group or team. The purpose is to improve the quality of their work to achieve agreed outcomes.’’

Providing Effective Supervision 2007, Skills for Care and Children’s Workforce Development Council

This last definition makes it clear that effective supervision should be formalised and structured, delivered in a way that is both challenging and supportive, with the aim of ensuring that staff are fully equipped to fulfill their role. The idea is that if all staff are effectively supervised, they will be able to perform all their functions at a high level for the good of the organisation, and ultimately, to the benefit of service users. Safeguarding is a lot more than simply work planning or offloading when necessary.

What, though, has supervision specifically to do with safeguarding?

Coming from the world of education, it was only when I worked alongside social workers and then moved into training department of Social Care at Bristol City Council, that I gathered a real appreciation of the concept. Supervision has long been embedded deeply in the culture of the work of social care. It has offered social workers structured support, guidance and development opportunities that are designed to enable them to best safeguard vulnerable children.

Supervision for social care staff is named as a key factor in effective safeguarding in statutory guidance and it is cited in many Serious Case Reviews. In the 2001 National Inquiry into the Death of Victoria Climbie, Lord Laming wrote ‘Supervision is the cornerstone of good practice.’ In her thorough national review of safeguarding services in 2010, Munro wrote ‘effective supervision can improve outcomes for children, young people and their families.’

However, nowadays it is not just social workers who are expected to carry out higher level safeguarding. Safeguarding responsibilities are now shared across the children’s workforce. The idea is that, along with these increased safeguarding responsibilities, comes the necessity to support staff everywhere with effective supervision to the same high level. Safeguarding is tough and demanding work, and employers have a clear duty of care to their staff, as well as a duty to ensure high level of safeguarding competence from them. Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) now recommends ‘appropriate supervision and support for staff.’ Supervision for staff has long been cited in the Early Years Foundation stage as an important part of safeguarding practice – now other sectors must follow suit.

Effective supervision in particular for all key safeguarding leaders within settings is vital. The most recent Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) says: Designated practitioner roles… should be given sufficient time, funding, supervision and support to fulfil their child welfare and safeguarding responsibilities effectively....’ p56

How we can help

Mandy Parry Training offers a range of safeguarding supervision services. If you want to learn more about safeguarding supervision, or explore how you could practically offer this service in your setting, or want to simply make your existing supervision practice more effective, sign up to the next Effective Supervision training. MPT also offers non-managerial safeguarding supervision for individual safeguarding staff and Peer Supervision Support sessions where Mandy facilitates the sharing of good practice and mutual support for safeguarding for participants.

Safeguarding is challenging. Make sure you are receiving the support and help you need through effective supervision.

For further information on the course, give us a call: 07811 101740