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Voucher scheme groups praised

Better planning, written documentation and recording of assessments are key themes of the first batch of HMI reports on playgroups and nurseries which are taking part in the nursery voucher scheme.

Inspectors found many positive developments in Highland, East Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire, including Speyside groups visited last week by Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister.

After a call on the Boat of Garten group, Mr Robertson said: "It is encouraging to see the additional resources made available by the Government for the initiative being used to develop a new nursery class in previously under-utilised school accommodation. The success of the pre-school voucher initiative in Badenoch and Strathspey is a prime example of what can be achieved when providers work in partnership" The group was inspected in September when 32 children were attending on a part-time basis. The inspectors found good work in communication and language, physical development, movement and expressive arts. They also praised work in emotional, personal and social development and the fact that children were regularly taken on outings.

However, as with other reports on playgroups and nurseries taking part in the voucher scheme, the inspectors note: "There was no written guidance for any of these areas of children's development and learning" Group leaders were also advised to "agree an appropriate system for recording and reporting on children's progress".

The inspectors describe the curriculum at neighbouring Aviemore playgroup, which enrolled 44 children - 21 in their pre-school year - as"very good". They advise the leaders to develop the programme for four-year-olds, expand the group's aims and link these to key areas of children's development.

Similar findings were reported at Nethybridge playgroup where the leaders provided "a high quality curriculum". But the parents' committee and leaders were advised to improve their aims, planning and assessment procedures.

At Carrbridge playgroup, the leaders have been invited to develop programmes for each key aspect of the curriculum and refine procedures for assessment and recording. Arrangements for picking children up at the end of each session should be reviewed, the inspectors suggest.

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