‘Outstanding’ Diggle pre-school but challenges ahead for Dandelions

A SADDLEWORTH pre-school has received the highest possible accolade from Ofsted.

But Diggle Dandelions’ celebrations of its four ‘outstanding’ grades have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.It is the third time in 10 years the not-for-profit facility, based at Diggle Primary School, has achieved top marks from Ofsted following a visit by inspector, Susan King, in February.

Directors Jenna Evans and Susan Rushworth and their staff are described as a “dedicated team of practitioners expertly creating a safe, nurturing atmosphere.”

Children are said to demonstrate “they feel happy and secure” as well as “arriving at pre-school ready to embark on their own exciting daily adventure.”

But since lockdown, the day care centre, for youngsters aged two to four years old, has remained closed, unable to access any lifeline funding but still hopeful of potentially moving into new premises on the same Sam Road site this September.

“It was hard graft but we did it,” said Jenna. “Our benchmark was there because we had done it before.

“But you cannot let your standards slip. For example, policies and procedures change so if you don’t keep on top of everything, things can slip.

“So, in my opinion, it is harder to remain ‘outstanding’ than perhaps reaching it in the first place.“And we couldn’t have achieved this dream without the Dandelion team. So, a huge thanks to all our hard working staff: Caroline Maguire, Helen Sleight and Sian Kinsler.

The pre-school, that can accommodate 26 children on any one day, closed at the same time as Diggle School back in March. That ensured an Ofsted ‘outstanding’ fun day had to be shelved.

Jenna and Susan though have remained busy and are in weekly contact with families to check on their well-being and to ensure children have sufficient activities to keep them occupied.

But she admits: “We have faced real hardship because we are ‘not-for-profit’ organisation.

“We need enough children to return to us so we can pay our rent otherwise it is just not feasible.

“And because we are in our own category, as yet we haven’t been able to access any business or Government grants.

“We are scheduled to move into a new building in September which would be amazing. So, hopefully we can keep in business until then – that is if it is safe to return by then but nobody really knows.”

In the latest Ofsted visit the inspector noted: “Managers communicate their clear vision and ambition.”

“Children follow clear routines that skilfully promote their independence and confidence
“Every child, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities, makes swift, measurable progress in language and early literacy.

“Practitioners foster highly effective partnerships with the schools that children transfer to.”

Dandelions received ‘outstanding’ in overall effectiveness, quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, leadership and management.

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