A one-of-a-kind playgroup for children with special needs in Petts Wood has been rated outstanding by Ofsted for the fourth time in a row.

Based in the United Reformed Church in Willett Way, the playgroup helps children with special educational needs or disability play, learn and develop before they move onto primary school.

Petts Wood Playgroup is the only facility of its kind in Bromley, offering free pre-school education from birth to five years old.

Playgroup leader Larry Simpson, 67, said the wider educational opportunities for children with special needs and disabilities has changed for the better since the pre-school began in 1968.

Denying the praise heaped upon her by parents, she puts the success of the group down to the children and the army of 40 volunteers.

She told News Shopper: “We have amazing children.

“We have wonderful, wonderful children and some of them have enormous difficulties, they’re just inspiring.

“I’ve also got an amazing team of volunteers who come in.”

News Shopper:

Larry Simpson with volunteers and children at Petts Wood Playgroup.

The Ofsted report comes after an inspection in April this year which found the nursery is once again outstanding in all four categories.

Inspector Judith Harris describes Mrs Simpson as an “inspirational manager” who “clearly values the staff and volunteers very highly”.

The report praises the “safe and welcoming family atmosphere”, the “outstanding progress” made by children and the effective safeguarding in place.

It said: “Exceptionally skilled staff and volunteers promote children's communication, physical skills and emotional development exceedingly well.

“Staff are extraordinarily caring and build exceedingly strong relationships with all children.”

Mrs Simpson, who also works as a nurse, added: “I think because they’re volunteers, they bring something very special with the children.”

She described the moment staff prepare to say goodbye to the children they’ve seen develop and grow as they move onto the next stage of their education.

She said: “There are lots of tears on the last day of term.

“When the children move on, we have 14 leaving this time, there will lots of tears.

“We will hold them back and be very brave for the children’s sake because it’s exciting for them.”

The playgroup’s facilities have undergone a huge refurbishment thanks to a grant of £100,000 which Mrs Simpson applied for under Gordon Brown’s government.

The funding enabled the creation of a sensory room, a soft play area, and separate spaces for therapists to visit.

Mrs Simpson also praised the help of those in the community who have donated their time or their skills to help the playgroup flourish.