Inspectors were not short of compliments for Hillsborough College Nursery following a visit in March 2022, writing that staff acted ‘warmly’, children ‘enjoyed themselves’ and parents seemed happy.
But weaknesses in teaching and minute-to-minute interactions by staff has led to the preschool falling from the highest rating available to ‘Requires Improvement’ in all areas.
In a new report, published on June 21, inspectors said staff needed to ensure “all children” had the benefit of “meaningful learning experiences” if they wanted to get back up to scratch.
The report reads: “The management team have an understanding of the curriculum [...]. However, this is not consistently implemented in practice.
“Staff do not always stimulate children's curiosity and involvement in their play.
“For example, while some children enjoy hand printing, others very quickly lose interest, due to the lack of challenge provided by the activity. Some children play on their own quite happily, but at times wander aimlessly when staff do not notice their need for better interaction. Occasionally, staff concentrate on tidying away the resources and wander around.”
It comes after the nursery’s teaching was called ‘excellent’ in its last visit in 2015, where Ofsted scored it as ‘outstanding’ in all areas.
Despite the new blemished rating, the report still heaped praise on the nursery’s operation.
Inspectors could not criticise safeguarding practices at the college-grounds-based nursery. Children were “warmly welcomed” by staff, who were “attentive” and were commended for building little ones’ confidence with positive conversations.
Children who speak English as an additional language were well supported. The boys and girls enjoyed healthy snacks and fresh air, and pre-school pupils were able to take themselves to the toilet.
“However, because of weakness in teaching, some children do not show sustained levels of engagement during group times and some activities,” the report reads.
It adds: “At times, staff do not fully extend children's developing skills, to help encourage them to try and do more for themselves, such as putting on their own coat and drying their own hands.
“Weaknesses in staff practice have not been identified and the support required to improve teaching is not sufficient to raise the quality of the provision for children.”
As a result, the nursery has been rated ‘Requires Improvement’ in all areas and told to redouble their engagements with children to challenge their thinking.
Hillsborough College Nursery is a purpose built, self-contained unit on the grounds of The Sheffield College’s campus on Livesey Street.
A spokesperson for the college said: “We welcome Ofsted’s findings that staff are attentive to babies’ and younger children’s needs and children are happy and enjoy their time at Hillsborough Nursery.
“Ofsted inspectors have also acknowledged in their report that staff positively praise children for their efforts and they support children who speak English as an additional language well. Safeguarding arrangements are effective and staff have a good knowledge and understanding of child protection.
“We are committed to supporting staff with their professional development. Steps are underway to address and improve early years play and learning skills.”