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Nursery boss says changes 'leave us wide open to trival complaints'
THE owner of a chain of nurseries believes changes making it easier to report concerns to Ofsted have just opened up the process to abuse.
Sarah Steel said the changes implemented just over a year ago open the door to major investigations being launched on the back of “trivial” complaints.
She said the changes are aimed at addressing concerns over child deaths where nurseries failed to spot signs of abuse, such as the recent death of Daniel Pelka, in Coventry.
Ms Steel – who has Old Station Nurseries in Faringdon, Watlington and Henley-on-Thames amongst the 10 in her company – said: “You can make anonymous complaints and you can make them every few weeks.
“I have spoken to colleagues who say they have had three or four inspections on the trot because there has been a disgruntled ex-employee.
“That wasn’t at my nursery but we have had a couple of complaints which are really quite trivial. There have been a couple of recent serious case reviews I know but they are trying to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
Complaint-triggered inspections could see some nurseries lose funding for free childcare for two-year-olds, she said.
She said an inspection was triggered at one of her Nottinghamshire nurseries after a mum complained she wasn’t told who her child’s assigned key carer was.
She added: “Within the sector there is an increasingly loud rumble of concern about Ofsted inspections and the subsequent judgments that are made – there need to be swift changes made.”
But Ofsted spokeswoman Nikki Blemings said: “We make no apology for wanting the best for young children, particularly those from poorer backgrounds.
“Nurseries and other early years providers do a very important job in giving young children a good start in life.
“However, it is Ofsted’s job to shine a light where provision is just not giving sufficient attention to children’s learning, safety and well-being.”
She said: “Parents expect this of inspectors. They rely on Ofsted to provide assurance, as far as possible, that their children are safe and get the good standard of early education which they deserve.
“That is why we have been looking at settings about which concerns have been raised and why we will introduce a ‘requires improvement’ judgment into our inspections from November.”
Ms Steel’s Faringdon and Henley nurseries were rated “good” in their last Ofsted reports.
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