Nursery provision was under the spotlight at a meeting of the education and children’s services committee on Tuesday afternoon.
Aberdeen City councillors grilled council officers over falling standards at the authority’s nurseries.
On top of the agenda were two of the poorest performing settings, at Orchard Brae and Kirkhill as judged by the Care Inspectorate
Inspectors identified a number of issues around safety at Kirkhill School Nursery in Kincorth – including youngsters going home hungry.
It was also found that a lack of infection prevention measures and poor recording of medication were putting children at risk.
The Care Inspectorate also paid a visit to Orchard Brae in March. It is an additional needs service operated across two sites – the Ashgrove Centre and Orchard Brae School.
Inspectors noted that “high quality learning opportunities” were found at the Howes Road nursery located within Orchard Brae School. While the Ashgrove Children’s Centre location was criticised in the report.
While the council now has an improvement plan for both settings, councillors were scathing in their comments.
What went wrong?
Speaking of Kirkhill, councillor for Kincorth, Nigg and Cove, Richard Brooks said: “The summary in the main text of the report does not quite do justice to just how poor this performance was.
“We have gone from a place that has been rated good, or very good, to weak in the space of three-and-a-half years.
“Was any indication before we got to this Care Inspectorate report, that this was going to occur?”
Aberdeen City Council interim chief education officer Shona Milne replied: “I think what we have to take into account is that there has been some disruption to the management within this setting.
“It was not expected that this was going to happen. We had a consistent nursery manager there for over 20 years and the new nursery manager took on the ropes.
“So, we have addressed that by looking at a new management structure within the school.
“We have identified a member of staff to have responsibility for the setting. This is a very experienced member of staff.”
An overall “weak” rating was given due to gaps in staff skills and knowledge, and their lack of understanding at times when it came to supporting young people’s learning.
The action plan highlights training will be provided in areas of “child development and additional support needs”.
However, the vast differences in the report regarding the two locations left councillors surprised.
Speaking of Orchard Brae, Kate Blake, who represents Kingswells, Sheddocksley and Summerhill, said: “When you read the Care Inspectorate report there are really significant differences between the two settings.
“It is like reading chalk and cheese the difference.”
Aberdeen City Council chief education officer on nursery report
Aberdeen City Council chief education officer Eleanor Sheppard said: “We share your reading of the report, two settings both under the same banner operating quite differently.
“A concern, but a significant opportunity given that we have a choice of how staff are deployed.
“We have been looking very carefully at staff deployment.”
Plans are also in place to further improve the early education services at Broomhill, Forehill and Heathryburn, where councillors were told “good progress” has been made.