Babies ‘at risk of harm’ at nursery, says inspector

BABIES at a Yate nursery were allowed to “wander around unsupervised”, play with electrical switches and risked choking on small puzzle pieces during an inspection.

Ofsted said Magic Tree Nursery was ‘inadequate’ for failing to keep an eye on babies “sufficiently to promote their safety and welfare” during its visit. 

Inspector Karen Allen said: “Staff do not notice things that put babies at risk of harm.”

The report said staff handed babies bottles of milk and let them “wander around unsupervised”, adding: “Staff…are unable to ensure that babies do not choke or give their bottles of milk to others who may have allergies. Poor supervision of these youngest children by experienced staff puts them at risk of harm.

“For example, staff do not notice when young babies put small puzzle pieces inside their mouths and totter around, or when babies climb on a pile of soft-play equipment near a wall and play with switches on an electrical wall socket.”

The nursery, based on a corner of the site of St Paul’s Catholic Primary School, in Sundridge Park, received a ‘requires improvement’ rating last October but Ofsted returned in May, following a complaint.

The inspector also said Magic Tree, which has 61 places for under-fours, was found to be failing to meet babies’ individual learning needs. Staff did not identify delays in children’s development quickly enough, and failed to put in place swift enough support so they could catch up.

Owner Just Childcare was issued with a welfare requirements notice, ordering immediate changes, and was given until June 30 to correct failings in the curriculum and learning. 

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, Ofsted has re-visited the nursery and says it is now satisfied problems with supervision of babies have been put right.

Despite the criticisms, the report said parents spoke positively about the nursery’s welcoming atmosphere, friendly staff and new management team. They said children were happy to attend the nursery and they felt well-informed about care routines. 

Just Childcare also runs Little Acorns Nursery in Thornbury, which was rated inadequate in May, Tippytoes in Yate, which ‘requires improvement’, and 100 Acre Wood in Frampton Cotterell, which is rated ‘good’.

Just Childcare told the Voice that staff recruitment was a problem affecting many providers.

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.

“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.”

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.”