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Education / ‘Don’t be fooled’ by ‘weak’ Whalsay nursery inspection grades, councillor says

A NORTH Isles councillor says “don’t be fooled” by the term ‘weak’ when it comes to grades given to the Whalsay School nursery by external inspectors earlier this year.

The nursery class was deemed ‘weak’ in two out of four categories – leadership of change and learning, teaching and assessment.

An action plan for the nursery is being implemented by Shetland Islands Council education staff.

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said the report “outlines in great detail the real positive, hard work and dedication towards the bairns in Whalsay” shown by staff.

Results of the Whalsay School inspection, and of Dunrossness Primary School, were released in June.

They got their first airing in front of Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee, however, on Monday.

Whalsay School’s primary and secondary departments received ‘good’ grades in all four categories it was evaluated on.

Alongside the two weak grades, the early learning and childcare department was deemed satisfactory in securing children’s process, and good in ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion.

A number of strengths were found at Whalsay during the March inspection, including senior leaders’ positive influence as role models and children and young people’s desire to learn.

Some areas of improvement were notified by inspectors, with a recommendation to continue to refine the clarity of the vision, values and aims of the school.

Quality improvement officer James Johnston said it was an overall positive report.

Councillor Ryan Thomson.

North Isles councillor Thomson said the Whalsay school and nursery “provide an essential, vital and fantastic local service” in the community.

“Such is the important nature of these independent external audits, they are bound to, and indeed it is good that they flag any areas which could be improved upon. This is good for the bairns, for the staff, for the school and for the council,” he said.

“Don’t be fooled, however, by the term weak. The report outlines in great detail the real positive, hard work and dedication towards the bairns in Whalsay by the staff who work in that education setting.

“There have been suggestions of improvement in some areas, and these I’m certain will be taken on board, but on behalf of the community, I’d like to just reiterate publicly my appreciation to the staff for the hard work they have done, and are doing particularly in these very difficult times, for going over and above.”

Inspectors, meanwhile, visited the Dunrossness primary in early March, with the school receiving ‘good’ grades all round for its primary department and early learning and childcare.

Several strengths were noted, including the leadership of the head teacher, the teamwork amongst staff, and children’s motivation to learn.

The staff were advised to continue to share good practice and ensure consistency in high quality learning and teaching.

They were also encouraged to further develop approaches to tracking children’s progression to inform planning for learning in the nursery setting.

Quality improvement manager Robin Calder said at Monday’s meeting that it was an “uplifting” inspection report.

South mainland councillor and committee chairman George Smith said it was a school he knows well having attended parent council meetings there.

He added it was a “well deserved report” and praised the role of head teacher Andrea Henderson at the school.

The education and families committee also heard of inspection reports for three local care services from the Care Inspectorate.

Children’s Residential Services at Grodians was assessed as ‘very good’ in the two categories it was evaluated in.

Short Breaks for Children was deemed ‘vey good’ in supporting people’s wellbeing and ‘adequate’ in planning of care and support.

Windybrae was also evaluated as ‘good’ and ’adequate’ in these two respective categories.

Children’s Residential Services provides residential care to a maximum of four young people in Lerwick.

Some of the strengths highlighted included the positive relationships between staff and young people and the level of involvement in planning and the support for young people to maintain good physical and emotional wellbeing.

There were no requirements or areas for improvement.

Short Breaks for Children is a respite service for young people in two separate properties close to the centre of Lerwick.

The meaningful and trusting relationships between young people and staff was noted by inspectors, as well as the emphasis placed on the skills and talents of each person.

It was given one area of improvement, which was around ensuring care and support is focused and relevant to young people’s changing needs – with a review of care and support to be carried out at least every six months.

The Windybrae residential childcare service in Dunrossness, a detached house providing care for up to four people, was noted for the work of staff in promoting young people’s wellbeing and sense of worth, and that children had a high level of choice.

It was given one requirement – to ensure that all young people have a written plan which details how their support needs will be met. This has been put in place.