Inspectors have given Abriachan Forest School, near Loch Ness, a glowing first-ever report.
The Care Inspectorate visited for an unannounced inspection at Abriachan Forest School near Loch Ness on September 17.
It registered with the watchdog in January 2020 and provides care for a maximum of 32 children from aged three to those not yet attending school.
The Care Inspectorate gave the nursery a “very good” rating which is a five on its six-point evaluation scale.
In summer 2020 a replica of a historic roundhouse at the nursery was destroyed in a fire.
The report said the youngsters there during the inspection were “all extremely happy” and had a lot of fun.
It said: “The children were all extremely happy, settled and relaxed during their time in the nursery. They experienced warm, caring and nurturing interactions from staff who supported their care needs. Staff offered comfort and cuddles when needed, which gave the children reassurance.
“This supported children to feel safe and secure during their time at the service. We observed the children all having lots of fun during the session. We saw that children were very engaged in their play in a purposeful and meaningful way.
“Children were encouraged to follow their interests and curiosities and lead their play experiences. Staff made very good use of their questioning and conversations with children to expand their learning.”
Nursery bosses ‘delighted’
Suzann Barr, the learning coordinator at Abriachan Forest School, said: “We were absolutely delighted because we are fairly new when it comes to outdoor nurseries.
“It was great to get such good feedback on our first Care Inspectorate. We are a new outdoor nursery and hadn’t had an inspection.
“We initially started the outdoor nursery before the first lockdown and we were working with children from Inverness and local children.
“Abriachan is a small community and it doesn’t have that many early years children in it. In the early days we had children from Inverness.
“You do see a real difference in children who are outside most of the time. They learn to cope with uneven ground and improve their motor skills.
“We believe we can cover a lot of the curriculum outdoors.”
Parents also praise Abriachan
The Care Inspectorate also spoke to parents who praised Abriachan Forest School and the impact it on had their children.
One parent said the nursery had “shaped” her daughter and she was “brave and confident” since attending.
She said: “Over the summer months we really witnessed how our daughter has developed both physically and mentally and could see how her time at Abriachan has shaped her character.
“She is brave and confident and yet very emotionally aware of others and I really do think a lot of this can be attributed to the guys there”.
Another parent said: “My daughter tells me that when she grows up she wants to be a teacher in forest school just like Roni and she is always absolutely glowing when I pick her up.”
Report highlights outdoor nursery’s strengths
Abriachan Forest School’s quality of care and support, environment, staff and management were all graded as very good by the Care Inspectorate.
The school uses a smartphone app to update parents on their children’s activities and sends out regular newsletters.
Because it is a fully outdoor nursery the risk of spreading Covid-19 was “significantly reduced”. Children attending were “very confident” when washing their hands.
Some youngsters even sang to the inspectors while washing their hands.
The children take part in a wide range of activities including building dens and caring for trees in the forest.