Edinburgh children 'ate unsupervised' at nursery where boy choked to death
A nursery manager on trial after the choking death of a baby boy warned her bosses about staffing levels at the facility, a court heard.
Miranda Anderson is accused of failing to monitor her staff at the Edinburgh nursery where ten-month-old Fox Goulding fatally choked on a piece of mango.
The 47-year-old, who went on trial at the city’s sheriff court on Thursday, was in charge at the Bright Horizons Corstorphine Nursery when the tragedy happened.
The court heard how Miranda flagged up worries about staff turnover and the nursery chain deployed extra workers to help cover shortfalls.
But the trial was told that support plan was withdrawn around two months before Fox’s death on July 9 2019.
Eilidh Sayers, 26, a worker who was temporarily assigned to the nursery, gave evidence that it had been “suffering from extreme staff shortages and recruitment problems”.
She was later shown CCTV of under twos eating unsupervised while Anderson walked across the “baby room” a number of times.
A nursery manager herself, Eilidh she would’ve noticed and directed staff to observe the mealtime, while the general supervision shown was “not good practice”.
Eilidh, who was a regional field lead for Bright Horizons in 2019, said there should be a ratio of one staff member supervising every three children.
She said nursery workers should be seated with children during meals “to prevent incidents such as choking”.
Eilidh said she worked in the Corstorphine “baby room” until May 2019 as part of the support team before the extra help was withdrawn.
Shown CCTV footage from June 3 where children were eating breakfast, the witness pointed out a number of occasions during the 20-minute clip when youngsters were unsupervised or poorly supervised, with one staff member doing paperwork instead of monitoring them.
Anderson was seen crossing the room a number of times, but wasn’t seen to intervene.
Earlier witness Kirsty Mann, a quality development manager with Bright Horizons in 2019, told how Anderson raised “concerns about staff turnover” in February that year.
Kirsty acknowledged it was a “real concern” and a problem felt industry-wide, and a support plan was drawn up with more staff sent in.
She said Anderson was “confident” the support could be withdrawn following a meeting on May 21.
Kirsty said no deputy manger was in place at the nursery at the time. Under cross examination by Barry Smith QC, defending, she agreed Anderson was a “diligent and effective manager” who made “child welfare and safety a priority”.
Pauline Cant, 52, a field manager with Bright Horizons in 2019, said it was “critical” to monitor children at mealtimes as choking on food was “a very real danger”.
The trial was read part of a statement given to police by Anderson following Fox’s death. She told detectives she’d went back to her office when a staff member shouted to come as they “didn’t think a child was breathing”.
Anderson, from Dunfermline, Fife, is alleged to have been responsible for overseeing the safety of staff and children, ensuring her employer's policies and procedures were being followed, and is accused of failing to monitor staff appropriately between May 21 and July 9 2019.
The alleged offence, which Anderson denies, is being prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The trial before Sheriff Douglas Keir continues.