Sparrow Playgroup Ascension Hall, Michaelson Avenue, Torrisholme, MORECAMBE, Lancashire, LA4 6SF
Previous inspection date
The quality and standards of the
early years provision
This inspection: 1 Outstanding
Previous inspection: 2 Good
How well the early years provision meets the needs of the range of children who
The contribution of the early years provision to the well-being of children
The effectiveness of the leadership and management of the early years provision
The quality and standards of the early years provision
This provision is outstanding
Teaching is excellent and staff have exceedingly high aspirations for all children.
Children are motivated to learn as they experience stimulating and challenging
activities, both indoors and outdoors. Consequently, children make rapid progress in
relation to their starting points.
The excellent range of accessible resources and outdoor learning opportunities inspire
children, igniting their curiosity as they explore, investigate and become active learners.
As a result, high levels of learning take place as they become more confident and self-
Children are safeguarded exceedingly well because comprehensive policies, procedures
and risk assessments are in place and strictly adhered to. In addition, the managers
and staff have a secure understanding of how to deal with concerns, helping to protect
children from harm or abuse.
There are highly effective partnerships with parents in place. This contributes to
successful information sharing, collaborative working and continuity of care and
learning for all children.
The managers and staff are highly reflective and aspire to continually improve
outcomes for children and families. As a result, recent developments are creative and
inspirational, benefitting children emotionally and educationally.
Information about this inspection
Inspections of registered early years provision are:
. scheduled at least once in every inspection cycle – the current cycle ends on 31 July
. scheduled more frequently where Ofsted identifies a need to do so, for example
where provision was previously judged inadequate
. brought forward in the inspection cycle where Ofsted has received information that
suggests the provision may not be meeting the legal requirements of the Early Years
Foundation Stage or where assessment of the provision identifies a need for early
. prioritised where we have received information that the provision is not meeting the
requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage and which suggests children may
not be safe
. scheduled at the completion of an investigation into failure to comply with the
requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage.
The inspector observed activities in the main playroom and during outdoor play.
The inspector held discussions with the manager, staff and the children throughout
The inspector conducted a joint observation with the manager.
The inspector checked evidence of suitability and qualifications of staff working with
children, relevant policies and procedures and the self-evaluation for the setting.
The inspector viewed children's files, assessments and planning documents.
The inspector spoke with parents and took their views into account.
Information about the setting
Sparrow Playgroup registered in 2008 on the Early Years Register. It is situated in a
church hall in Morecambe, Lancashire, and is managed by voluntary committee. The
playgroup serves the local area and is accessible to all children. It operates from a large
hall and there is an enclosed area available for outdoor play. The playgroup employs
seven members of childcare staff. Of these, four hold appropriate early years qualifications
at level 3 and two hold an appropriate early years qualification at level 2. The manager
holds a relevant BA Honours degree and has Early Years Teacher Status. Sessions run
during term time only from 9.30am until 12 noon on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and
Friday and 12.30pm until 3pm Monday to Friday. The setting offers dedicated outdoor
learning opportunities during the Tuesday and Thursday afternoon sessions. Children
attend for a variety of sessions. There are currently 72 children attending who are in the
early years age group. The playgroup provides funded early education for two-, three- and
four-year-old children. It supports a number of children with special educational needs
What the setting needs to do to improve further
To further improve the quality of the early years provision the provider should:
enhance staff's professional development even further so that training plans are
enriched, for example, by sourcing other training opportunities and undertaking
How well the early years provision meets the needs of the range of children
The staff at this vibrant playgroup have an excellent knowledge and understanding of how
children learn through play. As a result, the environment inside and out is planned to
promote active, autonomous learning, igniting children's curiosity and imagination.
Information gathered from parents when children first start and subsequent initial
observations, form accurate baseline assessments. In addition, staff observe each child's
unique learning style, closely matching activities and opportunities to suit their individual
needs. Consequently, children make excellent progress in relation to their starting points.
There is a strong focus on promoting communication and language, physical development
and personal, social and emotional development. This means children are exceptionally
well prepared for their next steps in learning, in preparation for school. The manager, who
is also the special educational needs coordinator, works with a local authority screening
programme. This programme, which is conducted on all individual children in collaboration
with parents and carers, is highly effective in helping to assess speech and language
development. Following assessments, targeted intervention is put in place for children
deemed as needing extra support. Furthermore, staff successfully work with parents and
carers to share and support any intervention strategies, contributing to continuity through
shared learning experiences. Practitioner observations are collectively shared at planning
meetings. As common themes around children's learning and their interests are
recognised, focus work groups are planned to enhance specific areas of development. For
example, children showing an interest in shapes are provided with small group
opportunities to learn more complex shapes, such as nonagon and decagon.
Consequently, children are provided with optimal challenge that contributes to high-level
The quality of teaching is consistently of a very high standard across the playgroup.
Children are animated as they enter the setting, immediately engaging in the highly
stimulating activities available. They develop their early literacy skills as they find their
name and pop it into the post box as a means of self-registration. These skills are
reinforced as they identify their nametag on their coat hooks and when they have snack.
Consequently, opportunities for children to recognise their name in print are plentiful. Staff
ensure that defined areas of play are attractively set out. The boxes and areas are
labelled, promoting early reading skills further. Additional resources are accessible and
available so that children can enhance their own learning opportunities as they play. For
example, children independently work together at building the train track. They develop
their social skills, communication and language skills and learn to make decisions as they
chat together, deciding what else they would like out of the drawers. Furthermore, the
open-ended resources help to extend children's thinking. There is an excellent balance
between child-initiated and adult-focused play. Children enjoy painting and taking part in
craft activities as they freely express themselves through art and design. The colourful
displays exhibit children's work, contributing to a strong sense of belonging and feeling of
self-worth. For example, children confidently explain the features on the sea creatures
that they have created, such as the tentacles on the octopus and the jellyfish. Staff are
extremely skilled in gaining children's attention as they read stories and take the register.
Children concentrate and join in with the actions as the practitioner tells the story of a
gingerbread man. Children follow the story animatedly, join in with key phrases and
predict what comes next. As a result, they develop a love of stories and books in fun and
The outdoor learning environment is equally inviting and inspiring. Children explore the
mud and make cakes out of it, adding water and other materials as they investigate its
properties. They enjoy the sand, taking their shoes off and benefiting from the sensory
stimulation. Staff challenge children's thinking skills by asking highly effective open-ended
questions, such as, 'what can we do?' and 'what will happen if...?' This helps to engage
children in deeper level thinking, which results in deeper level learning. Children develop
their physical skills through pedalling the trikes, throwing and catching the balls and
playing football. Staff offer lots of praise as they encourage children to play and work
together supporting personal, social and emotional development. Children are effectively
challenged and their needs are effectively met because the wide range of equipment is
well matched to suit the different ages and abilities. For example, younger children use
push-along bikes and trucks, and older children are able to practice their skills using two
wheeled bikes with stabilisers. As a result, children's development of their physical skills
rapidly increases as they gain confidence in practicing on different equipment. Staff inspire
children to investigate and find things out for themselves. Children show adults the insects
they have found, using the laminated research sheets as a form of reference. They are
encouraged to use the magnifying glasses to investigate further and make a note of what
they have found. This not only supports self-discovery and research skills, but also
promotes early literacy as they learn that writing is for a purpose.
Parents are highly respected and valued at the playgroup. There is wealth of information
in the entrance hall for parents and carers to read. This includes photographs and
information about staff, their training and qualifications. In addition, there is information
about speech and language drop in sessions, local children's centre activities, fathers'
reading week and the childcare and social care information contact numbers. Information
and messages are also available on a social networking site, where parents and carers can
receive and leave messages, making non-confidential information sharing even more
effective. Parents are kept well informed of how their children are developing through the
home link communication diary and regular parent meetings. They are invited to share
learning at home and to help with specific learning intervention targets. This benefits
children and families because it ensures effective continuity and strengthens positive
The contribution of the early years provision to the well-being of children
Children are exceptionally well supported through effective key person relationships. The
manager and key persons visit children and their families in their home prior to children
starting at the playgroup. This helps to establish secure attachments from the beginning
as staff, children and families forge a bond. Children, parents and carers are greeted
warmly by their key person when they enter the setting and open communication
channels contribute to highly effective message sharing. Furthermore, children's emotional
well-being is strongly supported because key persons attend to all the personal and
intimate needs of children, such as nappy changing. This means that children feel safe
and comfortable with adults who know and understand their needs and feelings well.
Children's behaviour is exemplary. Staff are highly skilled in teaching children to manage
their feelings and behaviour. They support children in understanding rules and boundaries
so that they are intrinsically embedded. Children demonstrate their awareness by readily
responding to instruction and following routines safely and with ease. Staff work closely
with parents to agree strategies and ensure consistency. Consequently, children quickly
learn the difference between right and wrong.
The managers and staff are extremely efficient at promoting healthy lifestyles. They have
worked alongside national schemes, such as 'Change for life', to promote healthy eating
and fostering positive attitudes to being active. The positive messages are reinforced
through sharing information with parents in the home link diaries. Children are taught to
understand where their food comes from and how to make healthy choices through
activities, such as, visits to the farm and the local supermarket and cooking. Staff readily
respond to children's interests and requests, valuing and respecting their ideas. For
example, children talk about how they love spaghetti Bolognese. Staff help children source
the ingredients, prepare them during one session and cook the meal in another session.
Children are excited as the meal is shared between everyone during the outdoor learning
afternoon, the following day. Consequently, children remain enthusiastic and motivated as
they benefit from first hand experiences, which help to consolidate their learning.
Children's independence and physical skills are further promoted as they regularly take
part in preparing fruit and vegetables for snack. They pour their own milk and help
themselves to water. Staff teach children the basic rules of hygiene. Children demonstrate
this as they independently, and many without prompting, use the soap dispenser and
wash their hands before having meals and snacks and after using the toilet. Furthermore,
a recent visit by the dental hygienist helped to teach children the importance of good
dental hygiene. One parent comments on how useful this has been. The manager and
staff make children's safety a high priority, while teaching them to manage the
environment and assess risks themselves. They vigilantly observe children practicing new
skills, such as balancing on the sand pit edge, but do not intervene unnecessarily. As a
result, children gain more confidence as they learn to manage their own risk.
The stimulating environment both indoors and out, coupled together with the highly skilled
and sensitive staff team, helps children develop a raised self-esteem and high levels of
confidence. This is because they feel safe and secure as they play, interact with others
and choose freely. They are exceptionally well prepared for any transitions onto school or
other early years providers. This is due to staff making close links with local schools,
where teachers are invited to come in to meet the children. Consequently, children are
emotionally prepared as they become familiar with other adults and learn about new
routines. The settings established links with other early years providers mean that
information is shared effectively and consistently. This contributes to meeting children's
needs as they are supported further with any transitions.
The effectiveness of the leadership and management of the early years
The leadership and management are superb. Arrangements for safeguarding children are
excellent because it is seen as a high priority at the setting. The managers are trained to a
high level, meaning they are knowledgeable and confident to follow safeguarding
procedures should there be any concerns over children's welfare. Extensive risk
assessments for all areas of the premises are carried out daily to ensure children's safety
remains paramount. The managers and staff constantly review hygiene and health and
safety procedures in the setting. Consequently, children are kept safe and well cared for at
all times. Highly efficient deployment of staff means that ratios are effectively maintained,
so that children's safety is never compromised. They constantly monitor whether children
are inside or out, adjusting staff ratios accordingly to ensure children's needs are
effectively met. Policies and procedures are well written and strictly adhered to by all
members of staff. They are updated annually and readily available for parents and carers
to read, contributing to the safe and efficient management of the setting. The leaders and
managers ensure that staff recruitment is robust. All staff are checked through the
Disclosure and Barring Service check system and a rigorous induction procedure means
that staff and students understand their roles and responsibilities when providing care and
education for children.
Annual appraisals, monthly staff supervision and regular observations are carried out by
the managers and focus on the roles and responsibilities of staff, the quality of teaching
and children's needs. Consequently, outcomes for children constantly improve through a
team of dedicated and committed staff. Continuous professional development is highly
valued at the setting, with the manager recently obtaining an Honours degree and Early
Years Teacher Status. As a result, of her newly acquired skills, leadership is excellent. Staff
attend training whenever possible, cascading information to others which contributes to
their first rate practice. However, there is scope to enrich their professional development
even further, by improving their knowledge and understanding of contemporary issues in
early years childcare and education. Self-evaluation is at the core of everything the
playgroup does. Parents are consulted through the use of questionnaires and children
provide feedback in their play. Staff continually reflect and support management in making
constructive changes to routines and the environment. Parents are consulted about
whether they find any changes beneficial, for example, concerning the dedicated outdoor
learning environment. Parents have found, on reflection, following questions from staff,
that children are eating and sleeping much better since this came into operation.
Furthermore, the managers show their commitment to continuously developing and
improving as they work towards the Lancashire Quality Award.
The managers and staff have a superb overview of the educational programme because
they have an excellent understanding of the learning and development requirements in
the Early Years Foundation Stage. Monitoring is ongoing through daily discussions and
regular planning meetings helping to ensure that children make rapid progress.
Assessments on children are monitored rigorously and identify precisely the specific needs
of children. This then informs the planning to ensure it is suitably challenging, successfully
helping children work towards the early learning goals. The managers and staff work
closely within a multi-agency framework. Relationships with other professionals are very
astute, helping to meet the needs of all children, including those with special educational
needs and/or disabilities. Parents are extremely complimentary about the staff, their key
person's and the management. They comment on how well their children are developing
and highly recommend it to others.
What inspection judgements mean
Registered early years provision
Outstanding provision is highly effective in meeting the needs
of all children exceptionally well. This ensures that children are
very well prepared for the next stage of their learning.
Good provision is effective in delivering provision that meets
the needs of all children well. This ensures children are ready
for the next stage of their learning.
The provision is not giving children a good standard of early
years education and/or there are minor breaches of the
safeguarding and welfare requirements of the Early Years
Foundation Stage. It will be monitored and inspected within
twelve months of the date of this inspection.
Provision that is inadequate requires significant improvement
and/or enforcement action. The provision is failing to give
children an acceptable standard of early years education and/or
is not meeting the safeguarding and welfare requirements of
the Early Years Foundation Stage. It will be monitored and
inspected again within six months of the date of this inspection.
The provision has no children on roll. The inspection judgement
is that the provider continues to meet the requirements for
The provision has no children on roll. The inspection judgement
is that the provider does not meet the requirements for
This inspection was carried out by Ofsted under sections 49 and 50 of the Childcare Act
2006 on the quality and standards of provision that is registered on the Early Years
Register. The registered person must ensure that this provision complies with the
statutory framework for children’s learning, development and care, known as the Early
Years Foundation Stage.
Unique reference number
Type of provision
Childcare - Non-Domestic
Age range of children
0 - 5
Total number of places
Number of children on roll
Name of provider
Date of previous inspection
01524 833 165
Any complaints about the inspection or the report should be made following the procedures
set out in the guidance ‘Complaints procedure: raising concerns and making complaints
about Ofsted’, which is available from Ofsted’s website: www.ofsted.gov.uk. If you would
like Ofsted to send you a copy of the guidance, please telephone 0300 123 4234, or email
Type of provision
For the purposes of this inspection the following definitions apply:
Full-time provision is that which operates for more than three hours. These are usually
known as nurseries, nursery schools and pre-schools and must deliver the Early Years
Foundation Stage. They are registered on the Early Years Register and pay the higher fee
Sessional provision operates for more than two hours but does not exceed three hours in
any one day. These are usually known as pre-schools, kindergartens or nursery schools
and must deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage. They are registered on the Early Years
Register and pay the lower fee for registration.
Childminders care for one or more children where individual children attend for a period of
more than two hours in any one day. They operate from domestic premises, which are
usually the childminder’s own home. They are registered on the Early Years Register and
must deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Out of school provision may be sessional or full-time provision and is delivered before or
after school and/or in the summer holidays. They are registered on the Early Years
Register and must deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage. Where children receive their
Early Years Foundation Stage in school these providers do not have to deliver the learning
and development requirements in full but should complement the experiences children
receive in school.
The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to
achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all
ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family
Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and
skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure
establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children,
safeguarding and child protection.
If you would like a copy of this document in a different format, such as large print or Braille,
please telephone 0300 123 4234, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may copy all or parts of this document for non-commercial educational purposes, as long
as you give details of the source and date of publication and do not alter the information in any
To receive regular email alerts about new publications, including survey reports and school
inspection reports, please visit our website and go to ‘Subscribe’.
T: 0300 123 4234
Textphone: 0161 618 8524
© Crown copyright 2012