‘Inadequate’ verdict on local playgroup

A LISBURN playgroup has been found to be ‘inadequate’ during a recent inspection.

Brownlee Playgroup, a purpose-built mobile accommodation located in the grounds of Brownlee Primary School was inspected in November last year. Inspector’s concluded that in almost all of the areas inspected, the quality of education provided by the playgroup - which opened in September 2011 - is inadequate and that the areas for improvement outweigh the strengths in the provision.

The playgroup which operates a morning and afternoon session is managed by the private company Little Rays, Dunmurry.

At the time of the inspection, an acting-leader and two temporary assistants were in charge of the playroom.

The inspection identified significant areas for improvement in learning and teaching and leadership and management, which “need to be addressed urgently if the playgroup is to meet effectively the needs of all of the learners”.

The report found the quality of the children’s achievements to be satisfactory.

The areas for improvement include the need: “to develop the planning and the use made of the evaluations and the observations in order to best meet the needs of individual children and to achieve progression in the children’s learning; to ensure there are appropriate policies and rigorous procedures in place for safeguarding the children; and to develop a consistent staff development programme that progresses the staff’s professional skills and expertise to implement self-evaluative practice and to deliver a high quality pre-school provision”.

The report found that the staff provide a range of opportunities for learning across most of the areas of the pre-school curriculum. It said: “Their interactions with the children are consistently of a good quality; in particular, the children’s early mathematical language is developed appropriately during role play, greeting-time and snack time.

“The provision for pastoral care within the playgroup is good. There are positive working relationships at all levels; the children are well-behaved and respond well to their peers. The staff use praise appropriately to build the children’s confidence, self esteem and risk-taking dispositions.”

The inspection also found that the playgroup gives satisfactory attention to developing healthy eating, for example, through the provision of a fruit break and healthy drinks. The area for improvement includes the need to plan for, and implement, a skills-based outdoor, physical play programme.

However, the inspection found there is a lack of a systematic approach to planning a programme that outlines a broad, and balanced pre-school curriculum for the children.

There is a need for a yearly overview of the key objectives of the curriculum to ensure that there is adequate challenge and progression in the children’s learning opportunities throughout the year.

The inspection also revealed that monthly, thematic planning and the weekly planning requires the identification of specific and progressive learning objectives, the appropriate development of the adult role and creative use of the resources.

The Education and Training Inspectorate will monitor and report on the playgroup’s progress in addressing the areas for improvement, over a 12-18 month period.