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Thornton Heath nursery fails to meet child welfare standards for second time in six months


A NURSERY in Thornton Heath could face legal action after failing to meet legal requirements on child welfare for the second time in six months.

Unity Nursery has been given an enforcement notice by Ofsted and could be prosecuted if it fails to make improvements.

It was rated "inadequate" – the lowest category – following an inspection last July and was given the same grade this week after a visit in December.

Owner Marie Lewin dismissed the report as "inaccurate" and has complained to Ofsted.

In the report, published today, Ofsted outlined numerous breaches to safeguarding and welfare rules.

It said staff had failed to ensure the nursery, in Melfort Road, was secure from access by strangers, that children were unprotected from "hazards", such as heating and cleaning materials, and that some staff were unqualified and lacked first aid training.

Ofsted raised many of the same concerns during its inspection in July, when it found children were left in care of workers who "do not hold qualifications in childcare and do not have first aid training".

Ms Lewin, who owns and manages the nursery, said at the time she had left them in charge to attend an emergency at her daughter's school and insisted her business only needed "minor" improvements.

This time she said most of the issues raised by Ofsted were caused by a member of staff - who has since been suspended - arriving late for work.

Following December's assessment, lead inspector Rebecca Hurst said the nursery's arrangements for keeping children safe were "poor".

"The provider fails to ensure that they protect children from unvetted adults, putting children at significant risk," the report said.

Ms Hurst said daily safety checks and risk assessments were "not effective, compromising children's welfare".

She said a heater was being used to warm the room but that staff had failed to consider the risk it posed. 

"It was hot to touch and children were playing around it and able to touch it with ease," she wrote.

Gavin Wallace, the deputy manager in charge during the inspection, told the Advertiser the inspector knew the heater was in a "secure" location, out of the children's reach.

The report also claimed the nursery did not allow children to play in the garden because staff did not want them to get "too dirty".

Depriving them of daily outdoor play has a "significant impact on the learning and development", the report adds.

Unity had made improvements to the way medication was administered, following concerns raised during the inspection in July. The 12 children on roll were described as "generally happy and settled". 

But Ofsted said it had failed to act on other issues it had raised.

Ms Hurst described teaching at the nursery as "inconsistent and weak".

"Staff show a poor understanding of how to observe and assess children in order to plan a wide range of activities to meet children's needs," she said.

During the inspection staff were observed "sitting impassively with children watching cartoons on television".

"There was no interaction between the staff and children, meaning that children were not stimulated to speak as they played. This hinders children's learning significantly."

The watchdog was equally critical of Ms Lewin's management of the nursery, accusing her of being in breach of many requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage and the Childcare Register.

It claimed that at the beginning of the inspection six children were left alone in the building with an unqualified member of staff who did not have first aid training.

Mr Wallace, who was in charge because Ms Lewin was sick, said the situation had arose because another employee, with first aid training, turned up 15 minutes late for work.

She faces a disciplinary and has been suspended, he added.

Inadequate safeguarding procedures were described as putting children's welfare at "significant" risk.

Not only could unauthorised people gain access to the nursery but unvetted staff on trial for jobs were allowed to take children to the toilet unsupervised, Ofsted claimed. The nursery denies the allegations.

Ofsted acknowledged that the nursery had worked with Croydon Council in a bid to improve but said progress had been insufficient.

The report concluded that the nursery's repeated failings meant it had little choice but to issue a welfare requirements notice, setting out the actions it must take. It faces regular monitoring visits and then a full inspection.

If it fails to abide by the requirements it could be prosecuted by Ofsted and have its registration cancelled.

Report 'incorrect' says nursery owner

UNITY Nursery owner Marie Lewin has complained to Ofsted about its latest report.

Ms Lewin, who also rejected criticism of her business following July's inspection, described most of the concerns raised during December's visit as "inaccurate".

"When I read the Ofsted report I rang Ofsted straight away and said I wanted to make a complaint about the inspection person. At least six or seven of the things she has mentioned are incorrect," she said.

Ms Lewin said the trainee mentioned in the report was not "unvetted" and said she was only left alone with six children because another worker was late, which also meant the staff to child ratio was not met.

She said a parent leaving the building, which has security doors, had unwittingly allowed the inspector to enter the nursery without being challenged, adding: "How does that have anything to do with our staff? Why is that the nursery's fault?"

When asked about a number of other criticisms, including children being denied access to the outdoor play area, Ms Lewin replied: "I don't know about that. I wasn't there during the inspection. I was off sick."

She added: "We have factual evidence that certain things written in the report are not correct. 

"I take responsibility and accept that one of my staff turned up late for work. If she had turned up on time we wouldn't be having this discussion.

"When all the flawed report writing is corrected I hope you come back to us to do another article."

Manager: 'If we were that bad they would have closed us'

THE deputy manager in charge at the time of the inspection said Ofsted had exaggerated the nursery's problems.

Gavin Wallace accepted, however, that a poor grade was inevitable after a first aid trained member of staff arrived late, leaving children with an unqualified worker.

"We had a staff member, who was the leading first aider, come in late. She was about 15 minutes late, but whether it's five minutes or 30, when you have children on the premises you have to have a first aider," he said.

"It wasn't a good experience, without a doubt. It's not good personally and it's not good for business."

Mr Wallace added: "We've been open for 15 years and this is the first time we've failed an Ofsted inspection, let alone two.

"After the first occasion we made a lot of effort to make sure, when [Ofsted] came back, we would shine.

"I think the report is wrong in some areas and over-zealous others. We were given a list of things to do to improve, which we worked on with the council, but when Ofsted came back we were told the requirements had changed.

"So, while there were things we could have done better, in some ways the report is very unfair.

"The children there on the day were happy and the staff, aside from the person who was late, were very good.

"If we were as bad as the report says, they would have closed us." 

Thornton Heath nursery fails to meet child welfare standards for second time in six months

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