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Harrow nursery has funding cut after ‘extremely harsh’ lowest rating

A Harrow nursery is set to have its funding cut after being awarded the lowest possible rating by Ofsted.

Staff’s knowledge of safeguarding was described as ‘weak’ and compromised children’s welfare but the nursery’ director has hit back, calling the rating ‘extremely harsh’.

Muddy Puddles Nursery, in Harrow, which provides day care for 32 children between the ages of one and four, was rated ‘inadequate’ following an inspection by Ofsted in January. This had fallen from ‘requires improvement’ after a previous visit in March of last year.

Inspectors found that some staff members didn’t know how to correctly report concerns about children’s welfare, which ‘does not assure [their] safety’. Some children were said to receive ‘little attention from staff’ and much of the learning that takes place is ‘incidental’  The nursery director called the report ‘harsh’.

They told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “We were not given a proper opportunity to showcase what we can do, not enough was done to reach that conclusion. It’s not fair. […] I do agree that there are improvements that need to be made, but I do not agree that it’s as harsh as [the report] has made it out to be.”

They added: “One issue is the quality and the consistency of the learning. Not everyone is doing the same thing, so I agree with that, but criticism of the safeguarding is not an accurate evaluation. The children are coming in happy, they’re having a good time, so let’s not be so harsh.”

The inspector noted that staff ignored unacceptable behaviour demonstrated by some children and suggested this ‘doesn’t help them to learn right from wrong’. When children wanted to play with the same toys, staff were said to not teach them how to share and take turns. They also noted that not enough emphasis is placed on staff training in order to deliver an effective curriculum.

The report states: “Staff are kind towards children and know what they like to play with. However, they do not always enhance children’s learning, and there is often a lack of purpose to the day. At times, children are over-directed, while at other times, there is a lack of engagement. This results in some children wandering around and flitting between activities.”

However, the director hit back at the findings, claiming that staff had created an activity that has been shown to teach children to share but the inspector ‘didn’t even stick around to observe the activity taking place’.

They added: “Ofsted need to realise that the approach their inspectors take needs to be a bit more friendly. The council and Ofsted together do not take the parents’ opinion into account enough. No parent is going to send their child to a place that’s hostile, unsafe, or they are not learning anything.”

The nursery told the LDRS that it receives between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of it child care provision through Harrow Council, with the rest coming from private paying parents. However, when a nursery is rated as inadequate, the council can pull the funding.

An agreement has been reached between the nursery and the council to continue funding those children who are transitioning to primary school in September, but no further money will be provided. The nursery needs to demonstrate a ‘good’ rating before the funding will be reinstated.

Its director claims that many parents ‘don’t want to move nursery’ and parents’ views aren’t given enough weight. They said: “[Ofsted] do not consider what the parents view is enough and base everything on one day. You can not tell me that every ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ nursery does everything correctly every single day. It’s impossible.”

They added: “I am going to have to give those parents that want to remain here free care without claiming from the council. If the child is happy, learning and developing, and the parents feel they are safe, why should they have to send their child somewhere else? It’s not justified.”

Ofsted were approached for comment but said they ‘don’t have anything to add’ to what was noted in the original report. A spokesperson for the London Borough of Harrow said, “Under Department for Education rules, Ofsted judgements of this kind often lead to restrictions in access to funding. We’re helping to manage this impact, especially for those children due to start school in September.”

The nursery was praised for making sure children feel ‘settled and secure’, whilst learning good social skills. They develop good attention and listening skills, as well as taking part in light exercise, which contributes to both their mental and physical well-being. Parents told inspectors that the kids look forward to attending nursery and staff send story books home to encourage parents to read to them.

Inspectors outlined a number of improvements that the provider must make ahead of a follow up visit from the education watchdog. These include ensuring better staff supervision, implementing an ambitious and effective curriculum, and making sure all staff understand the correct safeguarding reporting procedures.

The director said: “Since the inspection, we have hired an independent consultant to look at the issues raised, and done more training with the staff and put them on more courses. We are also putting in place new leadership, we are making a change in personnel. Someone that can come in and monitor staff, work with them individually and as a group to ensure everything is consistent and of a high quality.”

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