Islington nursery slammed by Ofsted after inspector finds babies ‘crying themselves to sleep’ and ‘eating large chunks of fruit’

The results of the nursery’s inspection in November 2021

An Islington nursery that opened weeks before the first lockdown has had to make improvements after an Ofsted inspector said children’s safety and wellbeing were being “compromised”.

The education watchdog gave an ‘Inadequate’ rating to the Maggie and Rose nursery, which looks after infants from the ages of nine months to five years.

The inspector was worried that babies were put to sleep on their tummies and given “large chunks of fruit” that could be a health hazard.

The nursery in Esther Anne Place has three studios and a secret play house, indoor treehouse, and an outdoor Brighton Pier-inspired promenade, with children enjoying regular excursions.

When Ofsted inspector Sarah Crawford visited in November, she said “children’s safety and wellbeing are compromised at the nursery”, where day rates for under-3s costs £108, and £103 for the over-3s.

During the routine visit, Crawford was concerned that “arrangements for babies at mealtimes and when they need to sleep are not safe”.

Her report said: “Children do not always experience warm and nurturing relationships with staff in order to help them feel safe and secure.”

She observed that “babies are not comforted or reassured if they become tired and distressed”, adding: “Staff prevent them from moving from their sleeping mats by patting or rubbing their backs and babies eventually cry themselves to sleep.”

Crawford also noted that babies were put to sleep on their tummies, which is less safe than on their backs, and that training was not given immediately “to ensure babies are kept safe”.

She was also worried that children were allowed to eat large pieces of fruit,  which she said was a choking hazard, and that they could walk around eating food.

Since the inspection, Maggie and Rose said it has “comprehensively adapted our environment to ensure all hazards are visible” and reviewed risk assessment and policies, including feeding, choking, sleeping and general play.

Staff also get food safety training as part of their induction and 85 per cent of them are paediatric first-aiders.

The nursery has also reviewed daily risk assessments with learning reflections, mentoring and modelling best practice.

Ofsted said there was not enough understanding of their learning needs or high enough expectations, and so children do not make the progress they could.

“Staff do not support children’s personal, social and emotional development effectively,” the report said.

Maggie and Rose said its long-term curriculum plan is available for all parents, alongside the continuous provision planning for learning through play.

Ofsted praised the care of children with special educational needs or disabilities, saying they “are fully included in the nursery routines and activities”.

The watchdog also noted that “staff share information effectively with their parents and other professionals”.

Crawford said staff had safeguarding training and knew how to raise concerns about a child’s welfare.

During the visit, she also talked to parents, who spoke positively about the nursery and said “the staff are friendly, and their children enjoy attending”.

Parents also praised staff for sharing useful information about children’s routines and activities and said their views were listened to.

The inspector met the manager and discussed supervision and evaluating the provision at the nursery as well as the impact of the pandemic.

A spokeswoman for the company said: “We are disappointed and surprised by the recent report on our Islington nursery following their inspection in November of last year.

“We take the care of the children in our charge extremely seriously and, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 as experienced in the nursery sector throughout, we acknowledge the inspector’s observations on the day.”

She said Ofsted and Islington Council “are now fully satisfied that we have successfully delivered all our actions and no further action is required”.

The nursery said it was affected by the “extraordinary and unprecedented challenges” of the pandemic.

The spokeswoman explained: “Our Islington nursery opened just weeks before the first lockdown, reopening again in June 2020 under a new manager and Covid conditions.”

These included childcare bubbles to keep children and staff safe.

“We have had the same unprecedented staffing challenges that everyone in the sector has faced,” the spokeswoman said.

She explained that the nursery has followed all of Ofsted’s recommendations and that inspectors and the council were “very positive about our progress”.

She added: “In advance of our next inspection, we continue to work through our own comprehensive action plan, and we are confident that we will achieve the rating we know we are capable of and that our families deserve.”