Babies ‘at risk of harm’ in ‘chaotic’ nursery, says Ofsted

A NURSERY in Thornbury has been criticised for being unsafe for babies and allowing toddlers to run around in a “chaotic” manner.

Little Acorns was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted after an inspection.

Owners Just Childcare were issued with two welfare requirements notices ordering immediate changes. 

The company, which runs 60 nurseries across the UK, four of them in South Gloucestershire, blames industry-wide staff shortages for the failings.

Since the inspection, which took place in April, Ofsted has re-visited the nursery twice, and says it is now satisfied the problems have been put right.

Little Acorns nursery, which is based in old school buildings in Gillingstool, has 115 places for children aged under four.

It was previously inspected last year, and rated as ‘requiring improvement’.

But following a complaint in March this year, inspectors returned and found changes had still not been completed. 

In the report Ofsted criticised the nursery for not meeting safeguarding standards by failing to supervise babies “vigilantly enough to keep them safe” and for allowing toddlers to be “chaotic” at times, running around, and being left to their own devices.

The report said staff did not check on babies frequently enough, and failed to notice incidents that result in babies receiving injuries, putting them “at risk of harm”.

Inspectors Karen Allen and Joanne Neenan said: “Supervision of babies in the upstairs room where youngest children are cared for is poor.

“Staff fail to meet their individual needs, keep them safe or support their emotional well-being and welfare. 

“These youngest children are not adequately supervised while eating to ensure staff would be alerted to choking. Staff do not check on sleeping babies frequently enough.”

It said babies in the upstairs room were unsettled and cried continually because they had not formed secure attachments with staff who were therefore unable to console them.

The inspectors said: “This upsets other babies and creates an unhappy and chaotic environment.

“Staff fail to notice when babies move aimlessly around the room, fall and hurt themselves or when babies unintentionally hurt others.

“Staff do not check on sleeping babies every 10 minutes as per the nursery’s policy to help promote their well-being.” 

It also said staff do not engage babies in play to increase their enjoyment and to support their communication and language skills.

The inspectors found that staff struggled to support children with special educational needs or disabilities and as a result, they spent long periods standing back and watching other children play.

They said: “Overall, staff encourage children to behave positively, share and take turns.

“However, it is chaotic during the transition time after lunch in the toddler’s room. 

“Toddlers who are not sleeping are left to their own devices for a long period, while staff engage in routine tasks.

“Toddlers run around the room using loud voices and crawl under tables and climb on furniture.”

The report concluded that safeguarding arrangements were not effective.

Despite the criticisms, the inspectors said parents spoke positively about the staff, and toddlers seemed happy and confident, and had regular opportunities to play outside in the fresh air and enjoy healthy food and snacks.

Just Childcare also runs Magic Tree Nursery in Yate, which has just been rated inadequate following a complaint and inspection. Those failings have since been put right, the regulator said.

Tippytoes in Yate has been rated as “requires improvement”, while 100 Acre Wood in Frampton Cotterell is rated ‘good’. 

Just Childcare, a national nursery provider based in Manchester, told the Voice that recruitment of staff was a problem affecting the whole sector.

Operations director Liz Carroll said: “One of the primary challenges we have encountered is the industry-wide issue of staffing, which has significantly impacted our nurseries in the Bristol area. 

“To tackle this concern, we have made substantial investments in recruitment efforts, including increasing wages.

“Just Childcare has also made significant investments in leadership roles and restructuring staff to provide better support to our nurseries. 

“Additionally, we have been working closely with Ofsted and the local authority to improve the situation.

“We are confident that in the coming months, our nurseries will undergo re-inspections, resulting in improved grades that better reflect their true quality.

 “We sincerely appreciate the patience and understanding of our parents and families during this period.”

The Ofsted Inspector acknowledged that a staff shortage caused by some staff leaving recently had contributed to problems.

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of charity Early Education, said: “Recruitment and retention is a major issue in the early years sector at present, with many staff leaving for better paid and less stressful work in supermarkets and retail, even if they would prefer to remain working with young children.”

She said the problem was not unique to the UK but a “major contributor to the problem” was that government funding rates for the early years entitlements are too low, which means that many staff are on low wages.

Ms Merrick added: “Some nurseries are having to use agency staff or staff with lower qualifications than they would otherwise choose, which impacts on quality.”