A childcare service in Swadlincote has been rated poorly by education watchdogs despite making major improvements since its last visit from inspectors from education watchdog Ofsted.

Alison’s Childcare and Early Education (ACE) Ltd has been rated as 'requires improvement' by Ofsted - five months after being given the poorest rating of 'inadequate'.

This was due to "children becoming bored and distracted," "children’s well-being not being sufficiently assured" and managers "not accurately identifying weaknesses in teaching," which was reported in June.

Five months later the childcare provider, which has 54 children aged from birth to four on its roll, has been inspected again and has moved up a rating to requires improvement after changes and improvements. The lowest rating is inadequate and the best is outstanding.

This includes new systems to evaluate staff performance and sharing more information with parents and children, along with sending further activities home.

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Ofsted inspector Janice Hughes did list several positive areas in which the childcare provider, located in Robian Way, performs well.

She said: "Children are happy and staff support them to settle and feel secure. "

"Children form strong attachments to staff and this helps to promote children's emotional well-being.

"The provider ensures that the premises are safe and secure and that staff supervise children effectively to help keep them safe.

"Partnerships with parents and other professionals are effective.

"Staff regularly talk to parents to share information about their child, including their activities at home."

Alison’s Childcare and Early Education (ACE) has been rated requires improvement by Ofsted

Despite this, Alison’s was rated requires improvement – the third ranking out of four – for all four assessment areas.

These areas include effectiveness of the leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare, and outcomes for children.

Alison Murray, who started the nursery two years ago with her husband Henry, said that inspectors were very close to awarding a good rating, with minor pitfalls in teaching and learning. She employs 10 people at the nursery.

She said: "I'm confident that it will be even better next time around. The inspectors said we were very close to a good rating.

"All my staff have had plenty of training, and have had more since the inspection; they are improving all the time.

"There has been quite a lot of improvement since our last inspection and we are always looking to be better."

Alison's husband Henry said the childcare service strives to be different and offer more in a changing working environment.

"We are now open from 6am until 8pm through the week and also open on Saturdays, this is an effort to cater for the modern working family, along with people like police and nurses - it has helped us became very popular so far."

What is Ofsted?

Ofsted is the education watchdog, its inspectors visit schools, colleges, universities and nurseries throughout the UK and every four years provide an assessment on each establishment.

It may rate an education provider outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate.

An inadequate rating sees the provider placed in special measures.

Inspectors then revisit the provider every six months and set strict improvement targets and often introduce hiring freezes.

If these improvements are not sufficiently met then Ofsted may move to close the school.

Read the full report Alison’s Childcare and Early Education:

Summary of key findings for parents

This provision requires improvement.

It is not yet good because:

Staff working with the younger children do not use the information gained from observations of the children's play and achievements to plan for children's individual learning effectively. Therefore, some children do not make good progress.

The quality of teaching varies. Some staff working with younger children do not challenge or extend learning effectively to enable children to reach their full potential.

Although the management team has introduced new systems to help evaluate staff performance, these are not yet thorough enough to raise the quality of teaching in the room for younger children to a consistently good level.

At times, the organisation of some daily routines interrupts children's learning. Children are not able to complete the tasks they are engaged in to their own satisfaction.

It has the following strengths

Partnerships with parents and other professionals are effective. Staff regularly talk to parents to share information about their child, including their activities at home.

Children are happy and staff support them to settle and feel secure. Children form strong attachments to staff and this helps to promote children's emotional well-being.

Children behave well. They are suitably supported by staff and learn boundaries and expectations. Children cooperate well with each other, share and take turns.

The provider ensures that the premises are safe and secure and that staff supervise children effectively to help keep them safe.

What the setting needs to do to improve further

To meet the requirements of the early years foundation stage the provider must:

Make better use of the information gained from observations to plan activities that are geared towards children's individual learning, in particular for the younger children

Improve the quality of teaching in the room for younger children, ensuring that staff extend children's learning so that they consistently make good progress.

To further improve the quality of the early years provision the provider should:

Focus support and professional development for staff working with younger children more precisely to provide them with the knowledge and skills needed to raise the quality of teaching to a consistently good level

Manage changes to routines more effectively to help minimise interruptions to children's learning, so that they have more opportunities to complete tasks to their own satisfaction.

Inspection activities:

The inspector observed activities, indoors and outdoors, and the interactions between the staff and children. She looked at the play equipment and resources.

The inspector completed a joint evaluation of an activity with the deputy manager and discussed the impact of teaching.

The inspector spoke with the provider, the deputy manager, staff and some parents. She also talked with the children at appropriate times throughout the inspection.

The inspector discussed the children's learning and progress with the provider, the deputy manager and the children's key person.

The inspector discussed with the provider and deputy manager some of the nursery's policies and procedures, and looked at evidence of staff's suitability and qualifications. She also discussed staff performance, self-evaluation and the nursery's action plan for improvement.

Inspector Janice Hughes

Inspection findings

Effectiveness of the leadership and management requires improvement The management team is working to improve the quality of the nursery.

It has made changes since the last inspection and addressed most of the previous actions and recommendations. The management team supports individual staff and is taking steps to address inconsistencies in teaching practice.

Staff receive regular supervision and complete further training to support their professional development. However, this has not yet been fully effective in raising the quality of teaching and outcomes for younger children. Safeguarding is effective.

Detailed recruitment and vetting procedures are followed to determine the suitability of staff to work with children. Staff have a clear understanding of safeguarding issues and procedures to follow if they have any concerns.

Quality of teaching, learning and assessment requires improvement

The quality of teaching is variable. Staff working with the younger children do not use the information gained from their observations effectively to plan activities that promotes children's individual development.

They do not consistently challenge and extend children's learning. For example, children enjoy printing with carrots and fir cones, but staff do not use the activity well to teach children new skills or to extend their language. However, older children are taught effectively.

The staff working with pre-school children are enthusiastic and interact with children in positive ways, motivating and supporting their learning well. For example, they help children to build houses out of different materials after enjoying a popular story about pigs. They extend children's learning and encourage them to write their own story about 'little pigs'.

Personal development, behaviour and welfare require improvement

Inconsistencies in the quality of teaching mean that some of the younger children are not motivated or inspired to learn as much as they can. Despite this, staff are attentive to their care needs. However, staff in the pre-school room sometimes interrupt children's learning, such as for snack time and outside play.

Staff promote healthy lifestyles. For example, children follow appropriate hygiene routines, enjoy healthy snacks and meals and have daily opportunities to be physically active outdoors. Staff help children to learn about each other's backgrounds and diversity, for example, through books and role-play opportunities.

They find out key words in the children's home language from parents and help children who speak English as an additional language to communicate.

Outcomes for children require improvement

Outcomes for younger children are not good enough. Some do not make sufficient progress from their starting points. In contrast, older children make good progress in their development and are prepared well for their next steps in learning and for school. They concentrate, listen to stories and are developing positive attitudes to their learning.