What outstanding early years provision looks like with Sian McDermott at Rowland Hill

In early November, Ofsted released its inspection report for Rowland Hill Nursery School & Children Centre. The school received a grade of ‘outstanding’. The report called it a “joyful place” and commended many aspects of the school’s curriculum and the environment it fostered.

It also mentioned its exceptional SEND provision, a highly developed love of books among the children, and the school’s skilled staff. I wanted to see what an outstanding early years provision looks like, so I set off to Rowland Hill to speak with Sian McDermott, the headteacher there.

A tour of Rowland Hill

Although Rowland Hill is situated right along White Hart Lane, the school is an oasis of outdoor play and exploration. The ‘living wall’ of various vegetation dangling from the school’s green outer fence serves as the protector of an idyllic yard where children can garden, make sandcastles, climb trees, and fully combine the magic of their imaginations with nature.

A joyful learning environment

Upon entering, one thing that was immediately apparent was the joyful atmosphere. It’s hard to explain, but when you look at the children’s faces, you can see that they are happy, comfortable, and free to explore their interests.

Teachers were around, available, and actively engaging with pupils. Also, as Sian told me later, the school strikes a balance between a knowledge-rich curriculum that will serve the students later in their education and an exploratory curriculum in which pupils can delve into topics that interest them.

How did Rowland Hill achieve ‘outstanding’?

When I sat down with Sian, I wanted to learn a bit more about the school and how it achieved a grade of ‘outstanding’ from Ofsted. I asked her how the school fostered the environment of joy, how the staff delivers such high-quality and inclusive SEND provision, and what sets Rowland Hill’s curriculum apart.

The conversation was both enlightening and fun, and I hope it offers other nursery school teachers and leaders a glimpse at what this version of ‘outstanding’ early years provision looks like.

Of course, there is no magic formula for perfect provision, but Rowland Hill definitely ticked all of Ofsted’s boxes and more.

Listen to the full interview on HEP Talks

Listen to the full interview on HEP Talks

If you want to hear my full interview with Sian, including questions about the nursery school, the Ofsted inspection, and the provision offered there, listen to the episode on HEP talks. You can find it on Apple, Google, or Spotify.

About the Author:

Luke Kemper

Luke Kemper is Insight and Intelligence Lead at HEP. He recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Education, Globalisation and International Development. Before that, he worked for seven years as a university lecturer and high school teacher in China and Poland.

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