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Take care to prepare for annual inspection

A good nursery inspection report is in your hands, says Drew McCanney, so self-evaluate before the Care Commission comes knocking

Local authority nursery schools and classes have begun to feel the impact of the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 since it was introduced in April 2002.

They now undergo two types of inspection within a 12-month period. One is a joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Education and the Care Commission and the other is solely by the Care Commission.

The joint inspection runs along similar lines to school inspections, with HMIE taking the lead. The care inspection is quite different. The Care Commission is the regulatory body for a wide range of services, including care homes and independent health care services, and reports direct to Scottish Ministers. The officers' backgrounds are as varied as the range of services that they regulate.

The inspection is carried out against the Scottish Executive's National Care Standards: Early Education and Childcare up to the age of 16, but many of the points are also contained in its Child at the Centre: Self-evaluation in the Early Years guide. Local authorities that have not carried out a matching exercise between these two documents would be well advised to do so.

Self-evaluation is a feature of the Care Commission inspection, so nursery schools and classes will be asked to comment on their performance against the standards being used for the inspection. It is best to gather evidence throughout the year for this, now that inspections occur annually.

It is also advisable to review your local authority's corporate policy, which will have been submitted to the Care Commission, to ensure that it has local procedures in place for nursery schools and classes, particularly in child protection.

On the day of inspection you can expect the Care Commission officer to observe the children, observe the activities provided, talk to staff members, interview the manager (usually the headteacher), observe the interactions between staff and children, examine records and inspect the premises and outdoor facilities.

A draft report will be made available for comment, which may contain requirements andor recommendations. Requirements will need to be followed up with an action plan stating how and when they will be met, while recommendations can be considered alongside the school or class development plan.

On the first inspection, a check will be made that the Care Commission holds accurate information on the nursery school or class and an assessment will determine the extent to which the new standards and regulations are being met. Staffing levels will also be checked.

After the inspection, the Care Commission will issue a registration certificate which must be prominently displayed in a public area of the school or class.

Drew McCanney, an early years trainer and consultant, will talk about Preparing for Inspection at 11.30am on November 15

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