A GLOWING inspection report has earned the manager of Dromore’s Rainbow Pre-School Playgroup a meeting with Stormont Education Minister John O’Dowd.
Mrs. Janice Owens met the minister yesterday (Monday) at Stormont, having been invited to a reception because of the strength of the recent Education and Training Inspectorate report.
The report indicated the group’s key strengths, including “the friendly, caring ethos based on very good working relationships and excellent links with the parents”; “the very good quality of the interaction between the adults and the children”; “the very good opportunities for learning in all areas of the pre-school curriculum”; “the attention given to promoting the children’s language, mathematical and creative development”.
Also, “the comprehensive methods of planning and assessment; “the excellent support provided for the children identified as requiring additional help with aspects of their learning” and “the effective leadership demonstrated by the leader and the strong commitment of all the staff to the welfare of the children and to the work and development of the playgroup”.
The inspection itself – the first at the Rainbow group since March 2004 - was carried out on March 10 this year, when inspectors concluded the quality of education provided by the playgroup was “very good”; it was meeting “very effectively” the educational and pastoral needs of the children, they said, and had demonstrated its capacity for sustained self-improvement.
Meeting at the Cathedral Hall, the Rainbow Pre-School Playgroup draws children from a wide catchment area.
Inspectors reported the children were well settled and familiar with daily routines, engaging in lengthy periods of concentrated, productive and co-operative play and eager to explore and make full use of the stimulating learning environment.
“During the inspection,” they said, “almost all of the children were observed playing imaginatively and productively in the distinct play areas.
“The children demonstrate good levels of independence in attending to their own needs at snack time; they are keen to express their ideas through art activities and join in informal and formal story sessions which they clearly enjoy.”
It was recorded that staff had created a language-rich environment, promoting and extending the children’s language development.
The inspection report also noted the quality of interaction between staff and children was “consistently of a very high standard”, staff using every opportunity to promote the children’s learning across all six areas of the curriculum.
It added that written planning was of a good standard and guided the staff effectively in their work with the children.
“The staff operate a key worker system which enables them to monitor the children’s learning and progress closely,” said inspectors. “The information gathered is used to inform future planning and is shared with the parents on a regular basis; the staff need to ensure that there is a greater balance in the observations across the six areas of the curriculum for all the children.”
Also according to the report, parents were encouraged to become involved in the education of their children and the life of the playgroup in a variety of ways and “very good” links had been established with the local primary school.
“The quality of the arrangements for pastoral care in the playgroup is outstanding,” said inspectors. “There is a friendly, caring atmosphere and a clear respect for the children and their families; among the strengths of the playgroup are the very positive working relationships at all levels and the priority given to the children’s wellbeing; the children appear happy and confident and their behaviour is exemplary.
“The playgroup has very good, comprehensive arrangements in place for safeguarding children; these arrangements reflect the guidance issued by the relevant Department.
“The playgroup gives very good attention to promoting healthy eating and physical activity.”
Inspectors concluded that the playgroup leader provided very good leadership and managed the playgroup effectively.
“The staff has made a good start in the process of self-evaluation and there is evidence that this has led to improvements in the quality of the provision. The staff needs to continue to develop and formalise this aspect of their work further.”
The arrangements for the inspection of pastoral care and child protection included the opportunity for the parents, staff and management committee to complete a confidential questionnaire prior to the inspection.
Said inspectors, “The responses from the parental questionnaire were highly positive and indicated a high level of satisfaction with all aspects of the centre’s work . . The responses from the management committee and the staff questionnaires were also wholly positive.”