A Blackpool nursery accused of potentially putting children at risk has received an apology after Ofsted backtracked and admitted its inspector didn’t follow guidance.
Primrose House Nursery called in the lawyers after being branded ‘inadequate’ by Jacqueline Midgley last month, a rating that has now been removed.
Bosses at the privately owned pre-school, in Devonshire Road, are now considering legal action after the education watchdog took down its report and ordered a new inspection.
Claims of legal breaches, which Insp Midgley said ‘impacted on youngsters’ well-being and development’, have been withdrawn, while owner Anthony Brocklehurst told The Gazette: “For an inspector to say we were inadequate flies in the face of what we have been doing for eight or nine years.
“If we believed that we were inadequate, or whatever grade they gave us, I would not have fought it, I would have held my hands up. But we believe the inspection and the inspector were fundamentally wrong.”
In her report, no longer available on Ofsted’s website, Insp Midgley accused nursery managers of not having ‘a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities’.
She said the nursery’s temporary manager, covering maternity leave, had a ‘poor understanding of how to protect children’, and wrote: “There is a number of breaches of the legal requirements, which has a significant impact on children’s well-being, and learning and development.”
And although the former senior policewoman praised staff for being good role models, and said parents spoke highly of the care provided, she said it was ‘unclear’ whether children were making the best progress, and were not as well-prepared as possible for life at school.
Following her visit to the nursery, she said the nursery was inadequate in all four key inspected areas and gave it the lowest score possible.
Ofsted ordered a review after receiving a 10-page complaint from Mr Brocklehurst, with an officer later ruling Insp Midgley had not followed guidelines relating to gathering clear and robust evidence.
The government department has now written to the nursery to say Insp Midgley’s judgement of ‘inadequate’ was unsubstantiated, to apologise, and to confirm a new visit would be conducted soon, something it said it rarely does.
Mr Brocklehurst, whose company Quality Childcare Limited took over Primrose House in December and also runs Little Rainbows Nursery in Abingdon Street and Ashcroft Nursery in Whitegate Drive – both rated good – said his staff were ‘gutted’ with the inspection.
That feeling has now been replaced by relief, he said, adding: “The last two months have been extremely difficult and stressful for all the staff involved. It’s soaked up our energy. I just want to get on with life and move forward.”
In a statement, Ofsted said: “We take all complaints seriously and investigate each one thoroughly.
“After investigating this complaint we have decided we will inspect this early years setting again. In the meantime, the previous inspection report has been removed from our website.
“We have told the provider about our decision.”
On her LinkedIn page, Insp Midgley describes herself as an early years consultant and freelance early years inspector working for Prospects, contracted to carry out inspections on behalf of Ofsted since 2010.
In addition to Primrose House, she has inspected a further 10 nurseries and out-of-school clubs in the past year, according to Ofsted’s website, half of which she rated as outstanding.
Ofsted, which earlier this year said it would be ending its contract with Prospects to bring inspections back in-house, would not say whether it was now reviewing those decisions.
An Ofsted spokesman added: “We do not normally discuss individual personnel issues. When a complaint is upheld, we discuss the issues with our inspection service providers and Ofsted colleagues to see if there are lessons to be learned and to address any instances where our high standards have not been met.
“We take complaints about our work very seriously, and it is rare for inspectors to return to an early years setting as a result of an investigation.”