Sunday, 07 August 2022

Primary extends its intake after pre-school closure

NETTLEBED Community School is to take over the education of younger children from a former pre-school run on its site.

Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, approved the move on Wednesday and so the school will now look after three-year-olds in addition to its usual four to 11 age range.

This follows the closure of Happy Days Pre-School, which operated on the same site off the High Street since 2006.

It was run by a committee of volunteers and was judged “inadequate” by education watchdog Ofsted in October 2021.

Inspectors said that the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes and personal development of children required improvement and rated the leadership and management as inadequate.

But, following intensive support from the county council, the pre-school upped its rating to “good” after a reinspection by Ofsted in March this year.

Despite this, Happy Days closed at the end of the summer term due to ongoing concerns about the frequent turnover of committee members and the increased level of responsibility required of them.

Nettlebed school headteacher Bethany Greenwood said: “As a school we are excited to be extending our classes to include the younger members of our community and their educational provision.

“All of us at Nettlebed School and Happy Days Pre-School are fully committed to making sure that the transition is as smooth as possible for all involved.

“The class will be in the current position of Happy Days Pre-school and will be teacher-led. The children will become part of the school and link into before- and after-school wrap-around care too.”

The governors of the school agreed to step in to ensure there was still pre-school provision in the village.

A report was sent to the county council which said: “The review following October’s Ofsted report publication included discussions regarding governance and leadership.

“Committee membership is voluntary and there is a frequent turnover, as many are parents participating for the short period when they have children of pre-school age.

“The committee carries a high level of responsibility for elements including employment of staff, safeguarding and finances. It has become increasingly difficult to attract, train and retain committee members and this may have contributed to the quality issues.

“The proposal now agreed by the school’s governing body and the pre-school committee is for the school to take over management of the provision.”

As part of the takeover the school said it would recruit a qualified teacher to lead the new pre-school while existing staff would transfer to the school’s provision.

When the pre-school was inspected in October last year it had dropped down from its previous “good” rating.

Inspector Clare Perry said: “The curriculum is not sufficiently ambitious or well designed for all children. This means that children do not develop the knowledge and skills they need for the next stage in their learning.

“The manager's intentions for the early years curriculum are not clear or well designed. This means that staff are unable to plan effectively for individual children's learning. This leads to some activities being too complex or not engaging for some children.”

When the pre-school was reassessed in March, Ofsted brought the rating back up to “good” in all areas.

Inspector Claire Boparai said: “Children are greeted by kind and enthusiastic staff and sensitively support those who are upset when their parents leave. The time taken by staff to help children settle when they arrive helps to promote children’s feelings of being safe and their wellbeing.

“Children are well behaved. Staff act as good role models for positive behaviour and teach children to be kind to their friends, share and take turns. This helps children’s positive attitudes.

“Children are motivated to take part in a sing and sign development programme and learn how to communicate in a variety of ways.”

But while parents spoke positively about the school and the daily feedback they received about their children, they said they wanted more information about what children were learning so they can support them further at home.

Ms Boparai said: “To further improve the quality of the early years provision it should review support for staff to develop their questioning techniques, to further help and encourage children’s communication and language skills and develop ways to simplify group activities and be clear about what two-year-olds need to learn.

“This would enable them to join in more and develop further ways to share information about children’s learning with parents, to enable them to support and continue children’s learning at home.”

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