HM Inspectors visited Providence Christian School in September 2017 to engage in professional discussions with the school on its arrangements for quality improvement and its priorities for further development, says Education Scotland.
They concluded: "We are confident the school has the necessary arrangements and procedures in place to ensure continued improvement in the quality of education provided."
The full letter to the school states:"The visit was part of our quality improvement and professional engagement visits with independent schools which complement the general programme of inspections. The approach allows us to maintain our knowledge of schools in the independent sector throughout Scotland, and provides assurance to parents on the school’s capacity for evaluating its own work and making improvements which have a direct impact on the quality of experiences for its children.
"Our visit was based on the school’s self-evaluation and priorities identified for school improvement. During our visit inspectors talked to staff and children and worked together with the headteacher about the planned developments to ensure outcomes for children continue to improve.
"Providence Christian School has undergone a period of significant change in recent years. This includes a change of name, moving to a new building and changes in staffing and leadership. At the time of our visit, an experienced teaching headteacher had been in post for just two weeks. A recruitment progress for a permanent, part-time class teacher was underway. In a very short space of time, the headteacher has begun to evaluate accurately the school’s existing strengths and to plan for areas of further improvement. In moving to the new building in 2016, parents and staff have worked very hard to make the school a safe and attractive environment for children.
As a result, classrooms and open areas are warm, welcoming and encouraging places to learn. The school is well-resourced to meet the needs of all children.
"The school is governed and very well supported by an active School Board that meets regularly to discuss the progress, business and direction of the school. Most families are represented on the School Board which means that the views of parents are easily sought to help influence decisions and improvement. As a result, families told us that they felt their views were valued and important to the school community. The school’s approaches to planning for improvement have, in recent years, principally been the responsibility of the School Board. An annual plan is co-produced by staff and the Education Group, a sub-committee of the School Board.
"In recent years, priorities have included making improvements to approaches to assessment and tracking, languages, health promotion and sustainability. The headteacher plans to introduce a more systematic and evidence-based approach to self-evaluation over the coming year. The current improvement plan for academic year 2017-18 clearly focuses on further developing learning and teaching approaches that will increase children’s skills as independent and self-directed learners.
"The headteacher has quickly gained a very good understanding of the strengths and next steps in learning for each child. Building on their very positive attitudes to learning, the headteacher is keen to develop further children’s confidence in explaining their thinking and to apply their learning in different contexts. Children are learning to set targets for themselves. This is allowing them to take more ownership of, and to personalise aspects of their learning. They are responding very positively to this.
"Teachers and support staff know each child very well and are sensitive to any particular circumstances or challenges they may encounter. They ensure that all children are given opportunities to achieve success. The headteacher is keen to establish new approaches for younger children to learn through play.
"Across the school children are progressing well in their learning. Almost all children are achieving in literacy and numeracy in line with national expectations. A few children exceed national standards in literacy and/or numeracy. Staff use a range of tests and assessments, for example, for mental mathematics and spelling, to ensure children are on track with their learning. The headteacher has plans to extend the range of ways that teachers use their professional judgement to assess children’s progress. There is scope for children to become more involved in assessing their own and their peers’ work.
"Providence Christian School has clear aims and values that have been developed and agreed over time, by staff and parents. Based on the strong Christian ethos of the school community, children are friendly, kind, respectful and helpful to one another. They are eager to learn and respond with enthusiasm to the various tasks and activities that are set for them. Children of all ages are attentive and enthusiastic learners. They told us that they feel safe and well cared for in school. They are clearly proud of their school and enjoyed telling us about themselves, their unique school and island heritage. Children work very well in pairs and small groups for some aspects of their learning and they also told us that, for some areas of learning, they prefer to work individually before having the chance to collaborate with others.
"Visiting specialists, including parent helpers, of French, music, art and physical education enhance children’s learning experiences. There is a strong commitment from staff to ensuring that the island environment is used well as a meaningful context for learning. At the time of our visit, children were learning about the geography of the Isle of Lewis, and in particular, the sea-life around the shore. Across the school, children use digital technology independently to support and enhance their learning. Older children use tablets to research facts about basking sharks and to find out about different Scottish islands. They enjoy using a range of apps and games, for example, to improve their mental mathematics skills.
"Staff are keen to ensure that children benefit from a broad range of experiences. Moving to the new premises has afforded more opportunities for children to participate in the local community. For example, children have visited the senior citizens’ home; use the local swimming pool for lessons; and join with a local primary school to learn cycling skills. A nearby green space has been well used by staff and children to support learning about planting and growing. Children talk with enthusiasm about their success in growing potatoes and berries. Their produce is sold to parents and community members, allowing children to share their success with families whilst developing important skills for life, learning and work.
"Children create a range of craft products which they sell as part of their enterprise initiative in the community. Children use the profits to contribute to the cost of their residential trip to an outdoor education centre and also donate to the local food bank. Parents and staff are keen that these examples of supporting the community and needs of others are nurtured and further developed in line with the Christian ethos of the school.
"In recent years, the school has developed positive links with local schools and other small independent schools in Scotland. The school should continue to develop such helpful links in order to share good practice and to facilitate opportunities for professional learning for staff.
"We are confident the school has the necessary arrangements and procedures in place to ensure continued improvement in the quality of education provided.
"The school and School Board will inform parents about the school's progress as part of its arrangements for reporting to parents on the progress of the school."