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'Devastated' Black Isle parents react to deeply critical Care Inspectorate report on Culbokie Primary School's nursery service

By Alasdair Fraser

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Parents have rallied in support of Culbokie Primary School Nursery after a heavily critical Care Inspectorate report. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Parents have rallied in support of Culbokie Primary School Nursery after a heavily critical Care Inspectorate report. Picture: James Mackenzie.

UPSET parents have rallied in support of a Black Isle nursery slammed by inspectors.

Culbokie Primary School’s pre-school service was slated by the Care Inspectorate, the Scottish Government’s regulatory agency.

Drawing on evidence from an unannounced visit in March, it gave the service one of the worst gradings in recent memory, listing a litany of failures relating to the health, welfare and safety of children.

Three of four areas of care were rated as “unsatisfactory”, the lowest on a scale of one to six. The other was said to be “weak”, the second lowest grading.

In sharp contrast, previous inspections had all been favourable.

Among the most stinging of criticisms was that “children did not consistently experience kind, caring and nurturing interactions”.

Safety concerns included poorly-organised storage of medication and poor communication leading to a risk of children being unaccounted for.

But many parents contacting the Ross-shire Journal and commenting on social media were outraged by the findings and said they did not recognise the report’s criticisms of staff and premises.

How the story was reported last week.
How the story was reported last week.

A common description of the nursery was of a happy, home-from-home environment. One parent described it as a “wonderfully warm safe haven for children”.

Amanda McIntosh (39), a full-time mum and house cleaner with one youngster at the nursery and another who was there previously, said: “To say we are upset barely does it justice. I couldn’t say there was a dry eye in the school grounds among parents. Everyone is just devastated for the staff. We just don’t feel it is fair or reflective of them.

“We actually thought it was some other nursery we were reading about. We couldn’t recognise the comments in relation to our nursery. It is a wonderful, home-from-home kind of place, the staff are lovely and the kids go in there skipping and jumping every morning. It simply doesn’t describe the staff and nursery that we know.”

Clare Smith (35), an NHS employee with two girls at the nursery, said: “We’re all really upset about it because our experience is completely different.My girls love going there and, even on days off, they’re desperate to go back.

“They have a really close relationship with the teachers who, you can tell, know the girls very well on a personal level.We’re all for constructive feedback, but the report is worded so harshly that it has left us worried it is going to push our good teachers out the door.

“They have worked so hard through Covid in trying to keep it going which, as working parents, we really appreciate.To be caught off-guard at the end of that and be so heavily-criticised just seems cruel.

“It comes across as really personal criticism and it is really upsetting for those who have worked there for years.”

Many others voiced support on social media.

Kat Johnston said: “My daughter spent two years there and loved her nursery class. She still talks about it now. She loved the teachers and went into P1 completely ready and equipped with the skills for starting school.”

Fiona Loynd said: “My son attended this nursery and it was fantastic for him. It is a wonderful environment for little people to feel safe, encouraged and happy.”

Rachael Moore described “a fantastic nursery and staff” who went above and beyond for her autistic son, while Rachael Geddes said the report failed to reflect the community’s opinion of “a brilliant nursery with highly committed staff”.

Isabel Lewis added: “I have seen first hand how caring, playful and encouraging the Culbokie Nursery staff are.

“The children were always happy going for walks in the village or woods in the gym dancing with their teachers, playing games and singing.

“They should be proud of their nursery.”

A spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said: “We are an independent body that inspects services and evaluates them based on the inspection findings. The frequency of inspections is informed by our risk and intelligence model.

“As part of our inspection process, we seek the views of parents in relation to the service, alongside the views of staff and managers. Once we have completed an inspection, the service is issued with a draft inspection report and are able to comment on the contents of the report. We take these comments into account before the report is finalised and published.

"Where we identify opportunities for improvement we report on these and we expect services to take action to improve outcomes for children.

"We continue to monitor the care and learning experienced by children at this service.

"Every child in Scotland has the right to good quality, safe care which meets their needs and respects their rights.

"Anyone with a concern can contact us on 0345 600 9527."

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