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Inspectors had to feed hungry kids at nursery where staff 'labelled' children

Inspectors have reported having to step in to feed hungry children during a visit to a nursery. Inspectors said they had to intervene to ensure the children had something to eat when they were observing at the nursery in Scotland, weeks after it reopened following an E-Coli scare.

But a damning report on the Pear Tree Nursery, West Road, Haddington has revealed that during the visit inspectors had to intervene as children were left hungry and they gave it the lowest possible grade of just one (unsatisfactory) for its care. They revealed they considered issuing a letter of serious concern after the incident, only deciding against it when the manager reassured them there was ‘sufficient food’ for children, Edinburgh Live has reported.

The inspectors said: “During our observations at lunch time, the offered meal was not popular. It was a new dish as the usual chef was on annual leave. Hungry children were asking for more bread but there was no more. Staff were not consistent with the answers on what alternative options were available.

“We had to intervene to ensure all children had something to eat. As a result of our intervention, breadsticks, cheese, ham and fruit were offered.” Inspectors said staff had ‘unrealistic expectations” of the children while bosses did not have confidence in its staff to allow them to take youngsters outside of the nursery grounds.

Inspectors also said recent ‘nurture training’ introduced for staff had not had an impact, with concerns remaining about staff’s ability to provide “positive, loving, nurturing and understanding relationships with all children”. Inspectors also reported witnessing children being ‘told off’ for not following instructions or becoming restless and denied choice.

They said: “Staff used words that labelled children. When some children showed distress, we heard staff speak to them across the room rather than going to the child and giving them a cuddle. “Recent ‘nurture’ training had no impact on staff practice with continued poor outcomes for children.”

And inspectors said: “Children were unable to experience life outside the nursery as management did not have confidence that staff would keep them safe when in the local community. There were no pushchairs to take younger children for a walk.”

The inspection gave the nursery the lowest unsatisfactory grade for how it provide care, play and learning as well as its leadership with its setting and staff team receiving a weak grade. A string of requirements have been issued to the nursery, which is one of three operated by Bright Stars Nursery Group, in Haddington, including urgent staff training and leadership improvement.

The report said staff were ‘demotivated and disengaged’ while there was a ‘significant lack of leadership’. The full report has been published on the Care Inspectorate website.

A spokesperson for Bright Stars Nurseries said: “We acquired Pear Tree Nurseries in June and, while we have embarked on a major programme of investment in facilities and in staff training and development, we are sorry these quality improvements have not taken place more quickly. We recognise that it takes time to embed sustainable improvement. In common with others in the childcare sector, we have faced challenges in recruiting staff which have impacted on our dedicated and caring nursery team. We are now deploying experienced staff from our other nurseries in East Lothian to support and mentor our team and its new members at West Road.

“We have a detailed action plan in place, which has already addressed many of the issues raised by the Care Inspectorate and will ensure all the Inspectors’ requirements are met within the required timeframes. We are dedicated to raising the quality of childcare at West Road to the excellent standards we provide across our 84 nurseries in Scotland and England.”