The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector. The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues:
- the children’s development across all areas of learning and the quality of teaching; the use of the environment and standards of care and guidance
- the benefits for children of links with the Early Learning Centre
- the quality of leadership and management.
Evidence was gathered from lesson observations, children’s profiles and assessment records, school documents, parents’ replies to the questionnaires, and discussions with staff, governors and children. Other aspects of the school’s work were not investigated in detail but the inspector found no evidence to suggest that the school’s own assessments, as given in its self-evaluation, were not justified and these have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
This Nursery is situated close to the town centre and serves a very wide area, including some outlying villages. It offers part-time places for children over the age of three. The vast majority of children are of White British heritage. The proportion of children with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is relatively low. An adjoining Early Years Centre offers all day care for children aged 0–4 years and shares management and staff with the Nursery. Several children attend both settings, taking advantage of the all day ‘wrap around care’.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good Nursery with some outstanding features. It provides good value for money. Parents have very positive views. One described it as ‘a happy, caring and interesting environment in which children can develop their skills and have fun doing so.’ Many other parent questionnaires included praise for the ‘friendly, helpful and approachable staff’. Children and their families derive excellent benefits from services offered by the Early Years Centre and other links. For example, pre-nursery sessions help to boost development for young children and the combined full day provision helps to prepare children for the move into full time education. In addition, links with primary schools, medical and social services ensure that children have the support they need.
Children’s development, on entry to the Nursery, is mostly typical for the age group but there are wide variations. Some have advanced further than expected while others have difficulties, especially with speech and language. All make good progress and, by the time they transfer into their Reception classes, the development of most children is above the expectations for their age. They are confident in counting and recognising numbers and are becoming more secure when it comes to working on simple calculations and problems. Children make good progress in communicating and expressing ideas but their knowledge of letter sounds to support early reading and writing is not as well developed. Children make good use of computers and are confident in accessing their own choice of learning games. During the inspection they demonstrated their good knowledge of the world, for example, by appropriately using a wide range of gadgets in the ‘home area’ and naming many sea creatures. Physical and creative development progresses at a good pace because children have imaginative role-play areas and an exciting selection of activities to encourage exercise and dexterity. The imaginative ‘park area’ is a great favourite where children enjoy physical challenges and exploring the wild life area. Children who have additional needs have very good support and achieve very well from their starting points. Boys and girls achieve equally well because the staff take great care to check their progress and to provide topics and activities that appeal to both.
Personal, social and emotional development, including children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, is outstanding and supported through an excellent programme of personal education. Children’s attitudes to learning are excellent and most maintain good concentration. Attendance is good. Children thoroughly enjoy coming to Nursery and behave extremely well. They share resources willingly and minor disagreements are sorted out quickly, often needing only a minimum of intervention by adults. Children begin to develop a sense of community awareness through engaging in charity fundraising and welcoming younger children and their parents for social days.
Children learn well because the quality of teaching and the curriculum is good. Strong teamwork between teachers and very well trained teaching assistants ensures a good consistency of approach. As a result, children are well versed in routines and know exactly what is expected of them. The curriculum provides a good balance across areas of learning and includes varied opportunities for children to investigate and solve problems. Planning ensures that children have a good mixture of taught sessions, where they learn new skills and knowledge, together with independent work. For example, some children worked on a large construction with the teacher, learning how it fitted together. This later became a problem-solving activity as they worked on fixing parts that had come adrift. The time allocated to specifically teaching sounds and letters is insufficient. The teaching of sounds and letters in the sessions that were seen was less stimulating and imaginative than in other areas of learning.
Staff adapt their planning according to children’s interests. The recent ‘underwater topic’ was extended because children enjoyed it so much. This approach ensures that children’s views are taken into account and keeps them motivated. There is very good enhancement for learning through visitors and frequent visits to places of interest, such as the zoo or farm. The lunchtime French club is an exciting addition to the provision. With help, children acted out the story of the Hungry Caterpillar, with excellent pronunciation of the words for numbers and foods.
The induction process includes home visits and is very successful in helping children to settle quickly. When they begin Nursery children’s learning is assessed and they are allocated to ‘family’ groups with a key adult who gets to know them very well. The system ensures that children’s progress is monitored and work is planned carefully to take their learning forward. It also facilitates good, on-going links with home. Staff give excellent guidance for children by gently prompting and guiding them to try new things or go one step further. Parents receive very good information about the topics covered and how they can help at home; in turn they are able to support children’s progress well. In addition, the popular courses for family literacy and numeracy provide parents with a valuable insight into early learning.
Children are securely cocooned within this very safe environment and checks on staffing meet requirements. The National Healthy Schools Award recognises the excellent work done in teaching children about healthy living. During the sunny inspection day, children were mindful to wear their hats and to seek shade. Children are constantly encouraged to be independent. This, together with a good foundation for learning, means that children are well prepared for their future education.
Leadership and management are good. The headteacher is constantly driving the nursery forwards and has some ambitious plans for the further integration of care and education. Systems are well established and this enables successful delegation of responsibility. For example, the senior manager and staff have been able to maintain provision at the usual, good level during the recent secondment of the headteacher. Records of children’s progress enable managers to check on performance and to plan improvements. The process is effective and has led to an improvement in children’s progress in mathematical understanding this year. However, the use of two different success criteria makes it very difficult to check how much value has been added to children’s learning over time, especially for governors. Plans are in place to revise the records.
The one key issue from the previous inspection has been addressed and the integration of care and extended services provide additional benefits for early learning. With this positive record, the school has good capacity to maintain its strengths and improve further. Governors have been successful in attracting new members and in developing their role and expertise. They are now looking to play a more active part in checking children’s development. Governance is good and all statutory requirements are met.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
As all of the children are under five, this section is covered by the 'Overall effectiveness of the school'.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve the emphasis on teaching about sounds and letters and children’s learning in early reading and writing skills.