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Children’s Nursery Fails in Challenge to Ofsted Notice

The operators of a children’s nursery which was issued with a ‘notice to improve’ by education regulator Ofsted after pre-school age children were left inadequately supervised for five minutes has failed in a challenge to the decision. The High Court ruled that the notice was a reasonable and proportionate response to the incident.

The notice was issued following a visit by inspectors to the nursery on the basis that at least eight children were briefly left in a room with only one member of staff present. A commotion had broken out whilst the staff member comforted an upset child. However, that attracted the attention of other employees elsewhere in the building who swiftly dealt with the situation.

The notice to improve required that the nursery to take action to ensure that ‘effective systems are in place to meet the individual needs of all children’. The operators of the nursery mounted a judicial review challenge to the notice, arguing that it was an excessive response to a minor and short-lived incident.

However, dismissing the challenge, the court ruled: “Ofsted was entitled to conclude that the period, albeit short, was nonetheless significant, rather than minimal, and that the incident indicated a lack of effective staff deployment on this occasion. It takes a much shorter period than five minutes for a young child to suffer a major accident. The children were left vulnerable.

“The decision to issue a ‘notice to improve’ was a proportionate and reasonable one in all the circumstances. In summary, the incident was more than a nut and the ‘notice to improve’ was less than a sledge-hammer.” A subsequent visit by Ofsted inspectors to the nursery after the incident found that effective systems had been put in place to ensure that the individual needs of the children were fully met.