Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as education provider has been criticised by national inspectors of Tong Primary School and Sgoil Àraich who call for work to be done to provide an outdoor play area for nursery school pupils.

In September 2018, a team of inspectors from Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate visited Tong Primary School and Sgoil Àraich.

Their report states that; “The provider must, within six months of the publication of this report, provide a suitable outdoor play area for Tong Nursery School.“

It also insists on the provision of personal care plans within the same time-frame.

And they say:” We observed that the gate at the main entrance to the school would be easy for a very young child to open.

“We noted that there was nothing to stop them running into the busy and fast flowing traffic. There are traffic calming lights at certain times of the day.

“However, we suggest the provider assess the safety of the school entrance to ensure a safe departure from the premises.”

The Care Inspectorate notes that; “During the previous Care Inspectorate inspection, the setting had one requirement and no recommendations. The requirement has not been met. Outstanding issues relating to upgrading the outdoor environment are carried forward in this inspection. “

And the inspectors say: “As a result of our inspection findings, we think that the school needs additional support and more time to make necessary improvements. We will liaise with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar regarding the school’s capacity to improve and their arrangements for supporting the school. We will return to carry out a further inspection of the school within a year of the publication of this letter.”

The inspectors report to parents says: “During our visit, we talked to parents/carers and children, and worked closely with the headteacher and staff.

The inspection team found the following strengths in the school’s work.

  • The early emerging improvements that the headteacher is beginning to make to the school. She is identifying what the school needs to improve. Staff are showing a commitment to taking forward priorities.
  • Children who are articulate, capable and keen to learn. They benefit from caring and respectful relationships with staff.
  • The way staff have worked together to establish a new Gaelic Medium Education (GME) provision. Children are making good progress from being immersed in the language.

The following areas for improvement were identified and discussed with the headteacher and a representative from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Continue to develop a clear direction to guide well-paced change and leadership at all levels of the school. All staff should be making robust and regular use of self-evaluation.

Give very prompt attention to developing the curriculum to meet national expectations, initially prioritising the planning of literacy, numeracy, and health and wellbeing. This should ensure that children build appropriately on their knowledge, skills and understanding as they move through the school. Children need to be aware of their own progress and next steps in learning.

Include the further development of GME in the strategic planning of the school. The learning of Gaelic, as a second language in English Medium, needs to result in children making better progress. Children would benefit from an increased use of Gaelic in the daily life and learning of the school.

Improve learning and teaching. Staff should develop a shared understanding of the features of high-quality learning and teaching. Action is required to make learning more engaging, based on the needs of individuals, and with increased pace and challenge.

Raise attainment in all areas of learning, particularly in literacy and numeracy. Staff need to make better use of ongoing assessment to ensure children achieve as highly as possible.

Tong Primary School provides Gaelic Medium Education (GME) and English Medium Education (EME) at primary and nursery stages. Both the EME and GME three-to-five provision is referred to as Sgoil Àraich.

The headteacher has been in post since April 2018. Prior to her appointment, there were periods of acting headship. A key worker in the GME Sgoil Àraich was due to take up post in another provision the week following the inspection. A Modern Apprentice was due to take up post in the EME Sgoil Àraich the week following the inspection.

The EME Sgoil Àraich offers full-day placements, including wraparound care. At the time of the inspection, there was a total of 19 children registered.  An average of 12 children accessed the extended day provision. The GME Sgoil Àraich offered morning-only provision for an average of six children.

The inspectors said that: “In the GME Sgoil Àraich, children are happy and settled. They are very motivated and keen to learn. Children work well individually, and with the adults that support them. Overall, interactions through Gaelic are regular and in high-quality, fluent Gaelic. Children are confidently hearing and absorbing Gaelic as part of their total immersion in the language. Practitioners’ questioning is mainly effective and encourages children to think. There is some good use of commentary through Gaelic as children play.

“The older children in the Sgoil Àraich, as appropriate to their stage of development, use some Gaelic in established routines. Children are confident in choosing what to play. They engage in a range of adult-led activities. They are reported to enjoy baking activities, which is helping develop children’s specialist language, as well as early level numeracy. Partners make effective contributions to children’s learning. They benefit from national programmes such as Gaelic Bookbug.

“In the GME Sgoil Àraich, learning intentions and success criteria are beginning to be set as part of long-term planning. Practitioners should now make more use of these in taking forward learning and assessment through play on a daily basis.

“In the EME, children new to the Sgoil Àraich are settling well. They happily explore their environment. Overall, the majority of children in the EME Sgoil Àraich engage well with activities of their choice. A few children find this more difficult and require adult support. We discussed with practitioners that, in order to provide more challenge and depth in learning, they need to continue to develop their skills in using questioning and dialogue. This will enrich learning opportunities and support children who require more challenge.

“There is considerable scope to improve the environment to extend and enhance learning for children. Children’s curiosity and engagement would be encouraged with a wider range of heuristic and natural resources. Practitioners are unsure of current thinking in good ELC practice. They change practice without carefully considering the impact on children. We discussed with practitioners that it is important for young children to lead their learning, whilst also benefitting from an element of structure to their day. Some adult-initiated learning, and carefully planned interventions during free-play, are essential to ensuring high-quality experiences and progression in learning for children.

“Across GME and EME, practitioners are consistently caring, supportive and kind towards children. They use praise during their interactions and recognise children’s achievements. This is helping to build children’s self-esteem and confidence.”