The Garden Montessori at St Mary’s School, Donhead St Mary, was classed as ‘outstanding’ after an inspection in July, looking at the quality and standards of the early years provision.

Outstanding was the word used by the inspector, Catherine Sample, for most of the categories, including leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare and outcomes for children .

The key findings for parents also listed the school as outstanding, children exceptionally confident and independent, and eagerly approaching visitors to find out who they are and to introduce themselves.

The inspector’s report read: “They skilfully serve themselves, wash up their dishes at snack time, and carefully put away resources they have been playing with. Staff know children exceptionally well. They use this information to draw up individual planning for each child to complement the other stimulating activities available. Children make excellent progress from their starting points. Children have excellent communication skills.

They confidently initiate conversations with children and adults and chat animatedly about a wide range of subjects. n Staff provide exciting experiences that support children to become active and motivated learners. For example, children are growing sunflowers with seeds harvested from last year’s plants, which has helped them learn about life cycles. They are also experimenting with cutting and sticking paper in the style of Matisse. Children are exceptionally well behaved. They spontaneously share and take turns and staff empower them to deal with minor issues themselves. They show great concern when another child is hurt or unhappy.

The close-knit staff work extremely well together as a team and share the nursery’s clear ethos of supporting children to become independent learners. Staff build highly successful partnerships with parents in order to involve them in their children’s learning. They share information with them in a wide variety of ways and give them ideas of how to support their children at home. For example, they give them recipes for healthy meals and there is a borrowing library of books and games to take home.

What the setting needs to do to improve further: to improve the quality of the early years provision, the provider should seize every opportunity to extend children’s learning and enhance their excellent progress even further, with particular regard to those children who learn better outdoors.

The inspector observed the interaction between staff and children, spoke to parents and took account of written parental feedback, and spoke to staff and children, held a meeting with the manager and completed a joint observation with the manager, including sampling a selection children’s records of progress.

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