/ Providing Inspection Services for
Department of Education
Department for Employment and Learning
Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Education and Training Inspectorate
Report of a Short Inspection
St Colmcille’s Nursery School
Inspected: February 2004


1.Details of Children

Number of children: / Class 1 / Class 2 / Class 3
Attending full-time / 26
Attending part-time / 26 / 26
Under 3 years of age* / 0 / 2 / 18
With statement of SEN** / 1 / 1 / 3
At CoP stages 3 or 4*** / 14 / 10 / 6
At CoP stages 1 or 2*** / 5 / 2 / 0
With English as an additional language / 0 / 0 / 0

*On 1 July.

**Special Educational Needs.

***The stages refer to those set out in the Code of Practice for the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs.

Percentage qualifying under DE admission criteria 1 or 2. / 3.70%
Average attendance for the previous year. / 98.4%

2.Duration of Sessions

Full-time / Part-time: am / Part-time: pm
4½ hours / 2½ hours / 2½ hours

3.Details of Staff

Number of: / Full-Time / Part-Time
Teachers / 2 / 0
Nursery Assistants / 6 / 1
Qualified Nursery Assistants / 4 / 0
Number of: ****
Students / 1
Trainees / 4

**** Total placements since September of current year

4.Parental Questionnaires

Number issued / 78
Percentage returned / 36%
Number of written comments / 14


1.1St. Colmcille’s Nursery School is situated on the Killough Road, Downpatrick. The children come mainly from the local area. The arrangements for the inspection of pastoral care included the completion of questionnaires by the parents as well as meetings with the governors. The parents and the governors expressed a high level of satisfaction with all aspects of the nursery’s provision.

2.The Quality of the Educational Provision

2.1There is a friendly, welcoming atmosphere; relationships between the staff and the children are excellent. The staff are very caring and supportive; their commitment is evident in their efforts to create an attractive and stimulating learning environment for the children. Good use is made of a wide range of the children’s art work, posters, and photographs to create colourful displays around the school. Interest areas, supported by appropriate books and pictures, stimulate the children’s curiosity and increase their knowledge of the environment.

2.2The nursery has an effective programme of liaison with the parents; visits are made to the children’s homes; there are meetings and written information to guide parents before their children start attending the nursery; appropriate settling-in procedures are operated. The communication with parents is very good; a booklet, regular newsletters, and an open day are designed to encourage the parents to play a full role in the education of their children. The Principal reports that there is a good response from the parents and the local community to the programme of meetings and courses organised by the school. The staff value the useful contributions made by the parents to the life of the nursery.

2.3This year, the school admitted a substantial number of two year-old children; some of these children required high levels of support from the staff. The staff have worked hard to develop an appropriate programme of pre-school education for these children; as a result they are well settled into the nursery.

2.4The nursery has a suitable written policy on child protection, which sets out the procedures and provides relevant guidelines for the staff. The staff have received appropriate training and the parents are given suitable information about the school’s policy and procedures.

2.5The planning outlines a broad, balanced programme for the children, designed to foster their all-round development. It identifies many facets of learning inherent in the various aspects of play. Observations of the children’s individual responses and interests are carefully noted by the staff and used to guide future work.

2.6The daily timetable is well planned to support the children’s freely chosen play and to promote settled and concentrated activity. The children’s snack, and other necessary routines, are organised informally and operate efficiently. Appropriate time is given to story and music sessions.

2.7The staff provide the children with sustained support during play; their interaction and involvement with the children is of a high quality. The staff constantly encourage the children to observe and to think; they engage the children in valuable discussions about their play and their experiences. The close involvement of all the staff in the children’s play activities is a key strength of the school.

2.8The nursery’s educational programme is broad and balanced and offers good opportunities for learning in all the areas of the pre-school curriculum. The nursery’s programme promotes effectively the children’s personal, social and emotional development. The children display a good measure of independence and responsibility; they choose freely from the activities on offer. The staff encourage the children to share materials agreeably and to take account of the wishes of others; much praise is given for their achievements.

2.9There is very good use of the outdoor areas to provide a wide range of activities that promote the children’s physical development. The children display confidence in their control of small tools such as scissors and pencils.

2.10The wide range of creative activities encourages the children to explore and experiment with different materials and tools; some children have begun to make representations of people and objects in their surroundings. The staff’s imaginative approach to this area of development encourages the children to explore materials freely and produce work of a high standard.

2.11The atmosphere and environment of the nursery provide rich opportunities for the promotion of language. There is strong encouragement for the children to develop an interest in books; they pay close attention during story sessions and frequently browse in the book corner or explore an information book during their play. During the group story sessions, effective use is made of props and the children’s own models to promote language and listening skills.

2.12During the inspection, the staff and the children used appropriate mathematical language as an integral part of the play and of the daily routines. The children are gaining appropriate ideas associated with number, shape, pattern and measurement. Stories, songs and rhymes are often used effectively as starting points for learning about number.

2.13Early scientific ideas are well developed through well-planned play with sand, water and malleable materials. The staff provide an interesting range of natural materials, living things and items of interest for the children to observe and investigate. The outdoor area is designed imaginatively to provide a variety of different habitats and environments; the staff use this resource very effectively to promote the children’s interest in, and understanding of, the natural world.

2.14The staff’s careful attention to detail when planning a variety of trips ensures that they are providing safe and stimulating extensions to the children’s experiences. A wide range of visitors who talk about their work, promote the children’s awareness of the work of people in their community.

2.15The staff have developed good strategies to monitor and evaluate the children’s play and to record their achievements and needs. The information gained is shared with the parents and is used purposefully to plan the programme and to develop further each child’s potential.

2.16The children transfer to a large number of different primary schools. Relevant information about the children’s progress is passed on to these schools. Transition records are completed for all the primary schools to which the children transfer.

2.17Good provision is made for the children with special educational needs. The parents are kept well informed about the support programme developed by the school and how they may support the child’s learning at home. The staff monitor carefully the progress being made and review and modify their approaches in the light of thoughtful observations. The enrolment of a large number of very young children, and high numbers of children with special educational needs, places heavy demands on the staff. Care is needed to ensure that these demands do not become excessive, to the detriment of the programme as a whole.

2.18The Principal has a high level of professional competence and exerts a significant, beneficial influence over all aspects of the school. The teacher and nursery assistants ably support her; together they set clear goals for the school and promote a spirit of review and development. The staff value the support provided by the board of governors and the advice and guidance offered by the South-Eastern Education and Library Board’s Curriculum Advisory and Support Service.

2.19The quality of the accommodation is excellent. The space is used imaginatively to provide the children with a wide range of experiences. The recently developed room for parents is used effectively to provide a wide range of courses. The nursery has a very good supply of resources, which is enhanced further through the use of authentic items for role play and well used to support learning in all aspects of the curriculum.

2.20The strengths of the nursery include the:

  • very positive ethos;
  • inviting and stimulating learning environment;
  • good communication and links with the parents and the wider community;
  • valuable period of free play that helps to promote concentrated and purposeful play;
  • detailed planning and appropriate methods of assessment;
  • high quality of the staff’s involvement in the children’s activities;
  • very good opportunities for learning in all areas of the pre-school curriculum;
  • Principal’s high level of professional competence and the sense of team-spirit among the hard-working and dedicated staff.

2.21There are major strengths in all aspects of the educational and pastoral provision in this nursery. The needs of the children are being met very effectively.



This report may be reproduced in whole or in part, except for commercial purposes or in connection with a prospectus or advertisement, provided that the source and date thereof are stated.

Copies of this report may be obtained from the Inspection Services Branch, Department of Education, Rathgael House, 43 Balloo Road, Bangor, Co Down BT19 7PR. A copy is also available on the DE website: