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Nursery inspections 'don't give full picture'

New inspection arrangements for pre-five centres could lead to the "dumbing down of nursery education", it was claimed last week.

Joint inspections by HM Inspectorate of Education and the Care Commission, which came into effect earlier this year, were also criticised for alleged inconsistency and for "intrusiveness" by Care Commission members.

The complaints emerged at a seminar at the early years and primary conference in Glasgow, organised by TSL Education, publisher of TES Scotland and Nursery World.

Susan Smith, head of Tranent nursery in East Lothian, said joint inspections do not give a full enough picture of how a nursery school functions. Ms Smith said she had been able to contrast the two approaches, having experienced an HMI inspection while at another school and a joint inspection in Tranent earlier this year.

She concluded: "My concern is that we are in danger of dumbing down nursery education with these inspections because I don't think the reports reflect the work that goes on in nursery schools."

She said later that, while the pre-inspection information she had been required to produce had been "rigorous and thorough" in both cases, the actual inspection by the Care Commission had taken just one day and was "no more than a snapshot".

Ann Ross, acting head of Langside nursery in Glasgow, was concerned about the "intrusiveness" of some aspects of its inspection. "I have no axe to grind with the Care Commission person on a personal basis but, travelling round the nursery, she spent 25 minutes watching a teacher deliver to children. I understand she may have been a pre-school community organiser prior to joining the commission and I saw no reason why she was sitting inspecting and commenting on a teacher in a nursery school. That is not my understanding of what the commission should be doing."

Ms Ross's claim that there was a lack of consistency in different areas of the country also prompted murmurs of support from other early years'

practitioners attending the seminar - as did a suggestion from Myra Love, manager of Apple Tree nursery in Rothesay, that formal education be delayed until the age of six.

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