Ofsted slams ‘unclean’ Merseyside nursery where children are exposed to kitchen knives and hot radiators

The Mulberry Tree Holiday Club in Wirral has had its registration suspended by Ofsted.

An “unclean” Wirral nursery where children were exposed to hazards such as large kitchen knives and extremely hot radiators has been slated in a report.

The Mulberry Tree Holiday Club, on Bertram Drive in Hoylake, Wirral, was given an inadequate rating by Ofsted after its most recent inspection, on March 4.

Ofsted’s damning report said children’s health was compromised at the nursery with them eating off carpets “ingrained with dirt” among many other issues.

The Mulberry Tree Holiday Club, which provided full day care for 35 children aged between three and four at the time of the inspection, has had its registration suspended by Ofsted following the report but is applying to get re-registered.

The setting this nursery is located in, pictured in 2019 when it was still home to Kingsmead School. Image: Google
The setting this nursery is located in, pictured in 2019 when it was still home to Kingsmead School. Image: Google
The setting this nursery is located in, pictured in 2019 when it was still home to Kingsmead School. Image: Google

A spokesperson for the nursery said it is appealing the report and claimed there were a number of factual inaccuracies and false statements within it.

One of the most concerning extracts of the Ofsted report read: “Children’s health is compromised in this pre-school. For example, the premises and equipment are unclean, children play on and eat off carpets that are ingrained with dirt, and the rubbish bins in corridors that children access are overflowing.”

Safety concerns were also a major feature of the report. One section read: “Children are not kept safe in this pre-school. They are exposed to several hazards. This includes radiators which are extremely hot and may cause injury, trailing wires, discarded and broken equipment, large kitchen knives, sharp vegetable peelers and cleaning products that are left in the reach of children.

“Staff are not effectively deployed. This means that at various times during the day, particularly in the morning, children are left unsupervised. This puts children at risk, due to the hazards in the spaces they use.”

A water leak was also causing an issue for children at the nursery. The report added: “Children are exposed to significant damp in the building, due to external water leaks. Despite leaders and staff being aware of the damage this has caused to the flooring, particularly the carpet, children still sit and play in this area. This puts children’s well-being at risk.”

There were also issues with privacy. The Ofsted document read: “Children have no privacy when they are being changed for personal care needs. The door to this area has been removed and other staff and children frequently walk past or attempt to enter this area when it is in use.

“Furthermore, large brackets stick out of the door frame causing further risk to children.” The report also said children at the nursery “do not learn how to keep themselves safe”.

This extract added: “They often run inside and jump and climb on furniture. This makes the environment chaotic and dangerous. That said, children do have positive relationships with their key person. They go for cuddles when they need some comfort.”

One positive section of the report for the nursery said “parents comment on areas of the provision they are happy with, for example the large outdoor play area”. But concerns relating to children’s behaviour were also discussed, with inspectors saying it was poor at times.

This section continued: “[Children] become bored due to the lack of purposeful opportunities planned for them and do not benefit from clear rules or boundaries to follow. Therefore, children do not learn positive behaviour and conduct.

“Staff do not have high enough expectations for children’s learning. Therefore, children are not making the progress they are capable of. The curriculum is weak and does not support children to make the progress they are capable of. There are limited resources and learning opportunities available for children.

“Therefore, most children move around the pre-school from one area to another and rarely engage in anything meaningful.” There were some compliments made to the nursery in the report.

One section read: “That said, the deputy manager is [knowledgeable] about how young children learn and has plans to develop the curriculum in the future, however, this is yet to be implemented successfully.

“Children are making adequate progress with their communication and language development. Staff have all recently attended training to help them support children’s speech.

“However, staff are yet to fully embed the strategies that they have learned. Therefore, not all children are ready for their next stage in learning.”

There were also worries in relation to fire risk. One part of the document read: “Leaders and staff fail to understand the fire risk assessment. They put children at further risk of harm when they continuously prop open the fire doors, in the event of a fire the intention of these doors is to contain and reduce the spread of the fire.”

But the report did say staff have an adequate knowledge and understanding of safeguarding, for instance they knew some of the possible signs and symptoms of abuse and how to correctly report concerns regarding the welfare of children.

A spokesperson for The Mulberry Tree Holiday Club said: “We are currently working with Ofsted and appealing our recent report as there are a number of factual inaccuracies and false statements within it. This has been a highly stressful time for a small independent family business, alongside the challenges of a pandemic.

“We continue to thank our wonderful families who have supported us through everything and we know this issue will be rectified as soon as possible. As always the children in our setting remain at the heart of everything we do and we will not let this misjudgement defeat us.”

Rachel Campbell, 38, from Oxton, is a parent of one of the children at the nursery. She said: “My son Fraser Campbell has attended The Mulberry Nursery for the past three years since he was six months old. The Mulberry Tree has been a pivotal part of my son’s life and the care and development he has received has been outstanding.

“The report is not a true reflection of the setting, the care provided or the values that [the team] promote. The environment is safe, the children are happy and [there is] content with a robust curriculum in place for learning and development.

“The team also provide specialist care for children with additional needs, including my son who requires support with his speech development, none of this positive recognition appears to be outlined in the report.

“It’s extremely disappointing that a view and opinion can be made from one visit to the setting. [The team] has been completely transparent with the parents and has a collective supporting view from all parents.”