Would you be concerned about these points about preschool? Very worried.

(50 Posts)
SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 08:20:11

My son is starting a preschool tomorrow and I am prepared to accept that I'm just an anxious mum... BUT.

I have a friend whose son went there for a short while until mom has removed him from there. I know why and it makes me sick with worry. The reason was that the boy (3yo) managed to leave the building unnoticed (at busy collection time) and was taken back into preschool by somebody else's parents. Now i don't know exactly how far away he managed to wander off, I would imagine not that far but- shock shock shock
(Not to mention the fact that on his first day the boy was left to cry on his own and nobody consoled or paid attention to him - this is a fact as his dad hang around after the drop off and saw it himself).

Boy's mum (my friend) spoke to the preschool about this incident and was basically told that she should explain to her son (a 3 yo) not to go out the door and stay inside shock shock. After this mum didn't take him there anymore.

So this is what makes me so worried. Yesterday evening me and my son went out for a walk and we went to where the preschool is. I had a good look around and tbh left feeling very anxious because:
1. Outside play area has a wooden fence that is about 3.2ft high in most areas. There is a bittle bit of fence which is my son't heigth - 3ft.
2. The locking mechanism of the gates (there is 2 of them) is laughable. My son worked out how to open this type long time ago.
3. Please note that one of the gates is in the 'small' - 3ft fence and is 3ft tall as well. My son would open that in about 5 seconds if left alone.
4. There are 2 gates in the fence and in the evening they were left ajar. Now I'm not sure but somehow this seems wrong. Shoudn't they be locking the gates properly? I want to believe that having in mind the crap locking mechanism of the gates they put proper locks on them while kids are playing outside. But finding them ajar in the evening suggests no such locks exist.

Now, points above coupled with my friends experience makes me want to say 'stuff that' and not let him go there. But on the other hand I realise that I am an anxious first time mum so perhaps I am overreacting? After all, other kids go there as well and they are fine?

Am I overreacting?

EdMcDunnough Tue 04-Sep-12 08:24:39

I don't like the sound of the child left to cry alone. That is definitely not on, and as for making it the child's responsibility to stay inside - bollocks.

I would look elsewhere. I bet their standards are appalling in various respects if this is how they justify their errors.

Mine went to a preschool where there were a lot of rules and protocols that the staff had to follow, and things like this would not have happened. They just would not.

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 08:32:34

Thank you EdMcDunnough. To be honest I don't know why my friend did not go to Ofsted straight away...

I spoke to my childminder about this and she was shocked, trully shocked. But on the other hand she went to the preschool herself (many years ago) and heard good things about it so that makes me doubt my gut feeling...

Also, he starts yesterday but after initial letter to say we got a place there we haven't heard from them - is that normal? We weren't asked who will be collecting my son (as this is going to be his childminder) - so do they just let him go with whoever rocks up?... Sorry I'm ranting now but I trully feel sick with worry about this.

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 08:33:29

sorry, he starts tomorrow not yesterday...

EdMcDunnough Tue 04-Sep-12 08:35:29

Have you not been to meet the staff and look round? I was invited to do this both times. It's normal.

I would just give it a hike and look for another one tbh - sounds very lax, or lazy or just casual. You don't want a casual setting - you need proper rules I think or it will be mayhem.

Follow your gut - schools can change over time. Our primary used to be brilliant - then someone else took over and it's gone right downhill in many ways, though still one of the better ones.

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 08:38:17

We went there to look around before we applied for a place. I didn't pay much attention to the gates etc, my mistake but then it's in a nice area so I just assumed it's all fine...

EdMcDunnough Tue 04-Sep-12 08:40:17

Well, you can always try it out. It is a hassle to move once you've applied for funding/done al lthe paperwork but the only way really to know is by giving it a try.

You are free to move him whenever you like though if funded, of course that will be complicated as you might end up with nowhere till the next term, say if you moved him half way through a term.

I hope it goes alright, whatever you decide to do.

sheeplikessleep Tue 04-Sep-12 08:48:40

That would concern me too.
You have to have trust in your pre-school. Fundamentally, that's about keeping them safe first and foremost.
If I were you, I'd speak to the Manager and raise your concerns about the security. I'd take a lot from their response (i.e. "we are dealing with it / changing it to make it more secure" - happy, "it's up to the child not to go out" - not happy). How can a pre-school not take security and safety seriously anyway?!?!
Leaving a child to cry is another matter. There is always inevitable crying at pre-schools, after all there's 20 or 30 kids there. But staff should be resolving / dealing / consoling said child, not leaving them. Experience of that would totally undermine my confidence in pre-school.
There will be better pre-schools around. Things do happen - crying, scrapes and bumps, arguments, but in the nursery / pre-school DS1 attends, the staff are attentive and caring and take security seriously. There will be another pre-school out there for you, where you feel more confident.

sheeplikessleep Tue 04-Sep-12 08:50:16

BTW I've got my head around the fact that no pre-school, CM, nursery or school is ever going to be perfect. BUT the bits that aren't perfect need to be way down on your list of priorities.

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 09:04:34

Thank you Ed and sheep.

I absolutely understand that no childcare is going to be perfect. But yes, first and foremost I need to be able to trust it. I can say I trust his childminder 100% eventhough yes, bumps and scratches happen.

The fact my friend's son was left to cry while important is a lesser concern than safety issues. I'd rather someone would keep my son safe - first and foremost - and then worry if he's crying, not the other way around.

Can I ask, what is the set up in preschools you know with the gates? I've heard of others having multiple barriers where even if they can wander through one at collection they will be stopped by another barrier. This preschool has basically front door, small waiting/coat hanging area and then massive door which has to be opened at collection times. There's nothing between this and the front door - is that how it should be?..

Ofsted rates it at 3 by the way.

crackcrackcrak Tue 04-Sep-12 09:14:19

I would be really concerned about the crying and the security lapse you describe. Your child only has to be hit by a car etc once - doesn't bear thinking about and the staff obviously underestimate how serious an issue it is.

EdMcDunnough Tue 04-Sep-12 09:19:43

Where my child cried for at least half an hour each session, at the start, (we gave up after a few weeks - and I never wanted to stick it out even that long but family pressure etc etc) he was sat on the lap of his special 'person' who stayed with him at all times, holding him and comforting him and helping him engage with toys and friends.

If they had left him alone I'd have not left him there at all - I'd already spent a term staying with him for the whole session but they decided enough was enough and told me to go!!!

Leaving a child like you describe is seriously not on. That would concern me even more than the security issues tbh but I understand what you mean - better crying than injured or missing.

Ours had a two door system with someone always stood by the door, stopping each child till they were held by their parent.

The rear gates were locked at all times when the children were present but it was a building used for other things and so they would have been open on occasion.

ReallyTired Tue 04-Sep-12 09:20:39

I would go with your gut feeling. It is unacceptable for a small child to escape from pre school. The fact that the pre school does not ake responsiblity for an escapee is shocking beyond belief.

I spoke to my childminder about this and she was shocked, trully shocked. But on the other hand she went to the preschool herself (many years ago) and heard good things about it so that makes me doubt my gut feeling..."

I expect that the management of the pre school has changed since your childminder was there. Also pre schools in the 1970s didn't have to meet the standards of the 21st century. An outstanding pre school or school can end up in special measures very quickly if there is a change of head.

I don't you think you are over reacting.

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 09:27:03

Ok. So I think I need to start by talking to the manager of the place and go from there. Do you think I should say that I am aware of the incident where a child was left to wander off or just adress things like low/possibly unlocked gates/no barrier between front and hall door etc? Do I ask to see all the procedures and Ofsted report? Anything else you can think of that I should be asking about?

I don't want to come across as a loon but if need be I can live with that!

rockandahardplace2012 Tue 04-Sep-12 09:29:31

If you knew about this why send your son there in the first place? hmm

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 09:34:58

No, I dodn't know about this at the time of application. The friend is rather recent and I only heard her story 2 weeks ago. No way I would have applied if I had known this!

sheeplikessleep Tue 04-Sep-12 09:36:14

Spotty - our pre-school has:

Locked door to the building, which only nursery staff have keys to and is kept locked when kids are playing indoors / eating whatever.

Inner garden gate (which is locked with a high up lock if children are playing outside and therefore building door isn't locked). Whenever I turn up and the children are playing outside, I have to ring a bell, for the nursery staff to come and unlock it.

Outer garden gate is also not locked, but quite hard to push open.

sheeplikessleep Tue 04-Sep-12 09:40:03

I wouldn't mention the other incident.

I would just say you have concerns about security and why (i.e. always kept locked? no barrier etc) and give hypothetical situations.

They will be quite used to being 'risk assessed', safety is paramount, so should be able to answer questions confidently and their answer should reassure you.

I would also ask if your child cries on drop off, how do they deal with / console child?

Their ofsted report should be online. Google ofsted reports and the pre-school name. If there's anything in there that gives you more cause for concern, ask the Manager too.

rockandahardplace2012 Tue 04-Sep-12 09:46:45

Oh sorry, well if your not happy with the security I would seriously think about moving him somewhere else. I wouldnt be able to settle at home in fear of getting a phone call saying my dd been hit by a car because she got out of the gate sad

Nicechair Tue 04-Sep-12 09:56:12

I took my 5 yr old out of a school that let him walk out.
It wasn't the fact that he escaped, he is a bit of a head I. The clouds...

It was their response that made me take him out. Initially they agrEed it was terrible that he was returned to the school by my friend who rescued him
His teacher knew he was missing but then decided to sit down and have a meeting with a parent.
The after school club lady knew he was missing but didnt look for him...
They both waited where tey were to see if he would turn up...
He was 5 yrs old and out at the open gate. S
Distraught and lost.
The head teacher and head of governors thought this was acceptable behaviour and there was.no case to answer.

We sent him to another school the next term

It's paramount to keep kids physical safe.
Nothing should come above that.

I'd not send him there if you don't trust them

Nicechair Tue 04-Sep-12 09:57:43

I find it odd that I talked about it on here and most posters also thought the teacher was on to. It look for him..

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 10:06:29

Oh that's awful Nicechair shock 2 adults decided they are not bothered by the fact a 5 y/o was missing. Then another 2 adults decided there's no case to answer shock. Unbelievable.

The more I think about it the more I just want to not have him there. He got offered 3 days a week for 3 hours each day (total of 9 hrs a week) and I'm just thinking I should leave him at childminders and not bother.

What stops me is the fact that we are hoping getting into this preschool will help DS to get a place in a primary school in the same area which we like very much. I know there's no guarrantee but I see it as a bargaining chip.

In light of above though I just want to say stuff all that and make sure he is safe, don't care what school he gets into. Better safe and a different school than having something bad happen to him.

DisabilEightiesChick Tue 04-Sep-12 12:19:37

You need to feel happy and confident that your child is safe and well looked after. If that's not how you feel, then move him.

firawla Tue 04-Sep-12 12:31:19

The situation with the gates and them not caring if a child leaves the premises is not normal and not acceptable. I would look for somewhere else if thats the case.
Normally with young age groups like this the security would be very very tight, no children leaving until they are handed directly over to their parent or another adult who is named on a list as being allowed to pick them up - not just kids allowed to wander off!!!

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 12:43:37

thank you for your posts.

The thing is I don't know if my child is going to be well looked after there as he's only starting tomorrow... I have major issues and doubts regarding safety in that place, all based on my friend's story and my observations. I know one can say things happen but to me a child wandering off seems like a 'never event' - something that should never ever be allowed to happen. Once is once too much surely? What if next time there will be no friendly adult to take them back in?...

I know that during the hours he's there I will be sitting at work all worried. Is this all worth it, for 9 hours a week? Should I just keep him at the childminders and not bother about the preschool?... He's excited to go and keeps talking about it sad I dread it.

DisabilEightiesChick Tue 04-Sep-12 13:52:49

Sitting at work being worried about him is not on. Did you consider other preschools? Would be worth checking for places that might have vacancies (ssorry if yiu've already done this).

I would speak to them directly and ask about safety concerns. Say you have heard about the 5 yo and ask how they have changed their practice to make sure it doesn't happen again. If they blame the child or parents shock that's a bad sign. Can you ring them and book an appointment with the manager for the end of the day, then see if you can leave work a bit early to go and discuss it all?

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 14:22:12

I know it's not on. It's enough that today I haven't done much because the preschool is on my mind and I can't shake it! I can't be like this 3 days a week, no way.

I think I will be a bit sneaky and try to book an appointment on a day my son is not there and when they are busy so that I can go and see all in action. I might even arrive early and hang around for a bit to see if there's anything to confirm my worries re garden gates and bad locks.

Devora Tue 04-Sep-12 14:27:00

I would be really worried about the crying, and about their response to the escape incident.

How easy is it for you to look for another place? If easy, I'd start looking now. If difficult, I'd give the new place a try, but not many chances tbh.

DisabilEightiesChick Tue 04-Sep-12 14:41:55

It's the attitude that you need to worry about most. The occasional slightly dodgy lock is not great, but not as important as the kids being watched and cared for properly. If that happens then he will never even get the chance to test out the locks. I would speak to the staff and observe the childcare rather than hang around inspecting the locks - that does look a bit fixated. Any place worth its salt should have an open door policy and allow you to look around any time (as long as you tell them when you arrive, of course).

I agree with Devora above. Start looking for alternatives so you feel you have options.

I do not have a minute's worry about my DS while I'm at work because I know he is well cared for and watched over. Don't feel you have to settle for any less than this.

Devora Tue 04-Sep-12 14:50:17

Yep, I trust my dd's pre-school more than I trust myself. It's not unreasonable to aim for that.

SpottyBananas Tue 04-Sep-12 14:55:49

Devora - looking for another place is not a problem at all as he's with a childminder all day so I could just leave him with her and not bother with preschool... They don't HAVE to go to prescholl after all do they.

Chick - I went there late in the evening when no kids where around so all I could do is have a look at the outside area/locks. I do mean to hang around and observe if any kids try to play with the gate/open it and see staff reaction to that. Or even see if someone is outside at all times.

I think tomorrow I will start ringing other places. Like you all say, gates/locks etc is not the major issue, it's the attitude (well, all of the rest as well but bad attitude makes everything much worse). I can't get over the fact they think it was my friend's responsibility to make sure her son doesn't wander off not theirs. Beggars belief, really!

naturalbaby Tue 04-Sep-12 14:59:22

What about if you talk to them in the morning and if you're not happy with their explanation, could you just take him home/to the childminder?
Point out that you are concerned about the security and ask them to explain their adult supervision. Ask them what would happen if a child got out - if they say it won't/can't happen then you'll know they're talking rubbish and I wouldn't trust my child in their care.
My kids could wander out my home/garden several times a day (emptying bins/fetching things out car) but they don't because they are supervised and know that they can't step foot out the door/garden without me.

I think you already know the answer, go with your gut. You would never forgive yourself if anything happened.

It doesn't sound good to me and I'm not sure it will make that much difference to getting into the primary school you want.

Nicechair Wed 05-Sep-12 11:18:12

The odd dodgy lock could allow a child to leave the premesis and be involved in an accident.....
Ignoring a distressedchild is also dreaful, but not as serious as a road accident..

SpottyBananas Wed 05-Sep-12 12:50:55

So... today was his first day there, only 1 hour as settling in session, DP took him there. Apparently he fitted right in (at the tender age of 3 he can already talk hind legs of a donkey and loves people so I'm not surprised!)

I have made an appointment to see a manager of the place on friday and will make a decision after that... My partner agrees 100% that if we are not sure we could just leave him at the childminders so that's good.

I'm feeling somewhat calmer today.
I'm thinking of asking questions about gates etc and hypothetical situations and then mentioning the incident with my friend's DS. If they get all defensive/shirty or totally dismiss it then I guess I will know my answer. I also intend to hang around and observe... Should I be asking to see manager's qualifications or CRB?... How about other staff?...

insancerre Wed 05-Sep-12 16:26:31

You don't need to ask to see crbs or qualifications as that's Ofsted's job. You can ask about qualifications. Ideally the manager should be qualified to a higher level than level 3 and have recent training as a lot has changed in early years recently.
You could ask to see their policies which should detail what security measures they have in place. In the nursery where I work we teach the children that only adults can open gates and doors. Outside all the children wear high-vis bibs, different colours for different groups. the adults wear them too. Gates and doors have locks on them that the children can't reach and signs on them requesting that parents keep them closed at all times.

SpottyBananas Wed 05-Sep-12 16:47:32

Thank you insancerre. It's good to hear about how it is in other places. This one does not have locks on gates it seems and they are easily within reach for children. No signs on doors either hmm

DisabilEightiesChick Wed 05-Sep-12 17:01:56

Have you had a copy of their parents' booklet? That should give policy and procedure information. If you don't have this, that's a good starting point for your discussion on Friday - you can say 'Can I get a copy of your security procedures - in fact, while I'm here, could you also just talk me through those?' Then raise the isse of your friend's DS and ask how practice has been changed to take account of that.

At my DS's nursery door handles and locks are all above child height.

SpottyBananas Thu 13-Sep-12 10:09:15

Just an update.

I went to speak to the manager on friday. She was helpful, took me around to show the gates and to show that they are paddlocked in the morning, explained how they look after children outside (e.g. if there's only a few kids out there's one person looking after them and go to play into a contained gated area, if there's lots of them there's 2 persons).

I then asked whether there were ever incidents of a child escaping the setting. She said that they can't so then I proceeded to say that I'm aware of the incident with my friend's boy. She then has admitted that this indicent indeed has happened. Proceeded to say that they have changed the way they work to make sure it doesn't happen again (e.g. at the time when it happened there used to be 1 person at the door at collection times, now they have 2), and apparently the person who was at the door when the incident happened doesn't work there anymore.

I asked if they carry out risk assessments and she has immediately offered to see their risk assessment book.

She has also shown me a book with all their procedures and has emailed all of them to me as well.

So all in all I feel much happier about the preschool now. I am glad she has admitted the incident happened. Had she pretended it never happened I think that would have been a dealbreaker as I know my friend is not lying.

I still have a few niggles such as:
-- I found out that childcare settings such as this preschool are legally required to report incidents (such as a child escaping the setting) to Ofsted. This one obviously has not done it (hoping that child's parents won't do it either I guess). I understand why preschool might have been reluctant to report this (it would show up on their profile, an inspection would probably follow etc) and I am trying to work out how I feel about the fact that they have ignored a legal requirement (laid out by their regulating body, Ofsted) and what does that means/says about their attitude.

-- She said the boy was out for literally a few seconds. However, how would she know that if other parents brought him back in? It wasn't the person at the door who brought him back in so I am not entirely sure if it really was just a few seconds.

My DS seems to be ok there, he was asking for me to stay there with him and last night said he wants his childminder not to leave him there. But then they say he settles there and is happy. So i think I give it a go. He's a confident and outgoing little boy and I hope he is just adjusting to the new place.

I think what still bothers me is the fact they did not report the incident as they should have. How would you feel about that in my shoes?

Goldmandra Fri 14-Sep-12 10:08:00

I have just looked through the EYFS statutory guidance and I can't find anything that says they have to inform Ofsted of this event.

They do have to keep written records of complaints and their outcome and make them available to Ofsted if requested.

I may have missed something here. Who told you they should have informed Ofsted?

SpottyBananas Wed 19-Sep-12 16:14:38

Sorry I didn't reply earlier Goldmandra.

I have heard that from my childminder.

madwomanintheattic Wed 19-Sep-12 16:31:03

Spotty, you seem to be listening to lots of other people and taking their word as gospel, instead of finding things out for yourself.

I really don't understand.

Your new (two week) friend says her son escaped and was taken back by someone else. - this sounds like he dashed out of the door and another parent collecting their child grabbed him and hoyed him back in. You asked the staff, the manager explained they have changed their leaving procedures in response, and you are now fussing over an imaginary ofsted policy to report?

You seem fairly determined to find a drama. It seems absolutely fine. All of your questions have been answered. Risks explained and mitigated against.

If you don't like the place, just leave, but honestly, find something else to fuss over. The nursery sounds fine.

Goldmandra Wed 19-Sep-12 19:09:55

I'm pretty sure your childminder is incorrect, Spotty.

Some settings might let them know just to cover their backs but the requirement is only to have the paperwork available should Ofsted ask to see it.

They have done a risk assessment and changed their policy to make the collection time safer. I think that is very reasonable.

However you clearly don't feel comfortable about the setting and that is fine. It's really important to follow your instincts when choosing childcare. You need to find a different pre-school where you feel confident your child would be safe.

SpottyBananas Fri 21-Sep-12 10:23:20

I think I am actually ok with the pre-school now. The manager asked repeatedly a few times whether I am ok about things and she seems genuinely interested. My DS is settling fine in there and tells me he likes teachers and they do fun stuff like baking, tasting different veggies, painting etc.

And yes, as you say Goldmantra, they have made changes in the way they operate after the incident. To be honest I am not convinced that a place where there has never ever been any accidents like that would mean children are actually safer... In a way I feel that because a child has escaped once staff are likely to be more aware and wary of such things.

Also, because I went there and raised these issues and they now know my face/who I am, know that I am the one who knows something they do not want to become widely advertised information, they will keep an extra eye on DS and make sure he is ok there.

SpottyBananas Fri 21-Sep-12 10:27:09

Actually, I hope they will keep an eye on ALL the kids. I would certainly make sure all hell breaks loose if anything like that happened again.

marge2 Fri 21-Sep-12 10:40:43

I was the chair of a pre-school committee and a child escaping is a very serious issue. MAJOR issue. Stuff of nightmares in fact. We had one escape artist, who was actually the child of another committee member. He did it a few times, but he was making a concerted effort to do it at playime, and thankfully only ever stayed in the larger school playground. We had a check list to check all gates and perimeter before play time, count them out and count them back in again type thing... and the internal door had high child proof latches so nobody could let themselves out. When freeflow in/out requirement came in we had to invest to beef up all our gates and fences.

Any decent pre-school will phase new ones in so that they don't have too few staff to look after new ones crying.

Your one sounds rotten to me. I'd find another one.

It may have been good even a couple of years ago, but management in pre-schools often changes so frequently that I wouldn't rely on a recommendation from years back.

charlottehere Fri 21-Sep-12 10:44:33

I would look else where, I too would be sick with worry. They can't expect a 3 year old not to wonder just because they are told not to!

At DD's pre-school they are not always exactly forthcoming with children who cry at drop off time where as at her nursery they are brilliant. hmm She is very happy at both and have no other worries, is linked to school etc and tbh loves being dropped off!

SpottyBananas Fri 21-Sep-12 14:07:21

Oh marge2... I have managed to put my fears to rest but your post has unsettled me again (not saying that's a bad thing though...)

You say that particular child has escaped a few times. But then, does that mean that your pre-school can never be trusted again?.. My DS's pre-school seems to have implemented things to prevent an escape happening again. God I don't know. The manager is actually an older lady (I guess around 55-60) and she seems to be at the outside door at collection times (while a young member of staff is at the inner door). To be honest, I struggle to imagine the manager was capable of running after a child should he/she dash outside...

Can I ask, what do you mean by 'beefing up' the gates? Has that 'escape artist' tried to climb out of the perimeter too? Small bit of the fence at DS's pre-school is rather low however they do put paddlocks on gates...

Also, I would be interested to know how your pre-school dealt with those few times where that child escaped. Had that been not committee member's child, would you have notified childs parents? Did you keep a record of that incident on the file?

gabsid Fri 21-Sep-12 16:48:58

I didn't read the whole thread, but OP that sounds terrible!

Dont! Find somewhere you feel happy with!

DD's last year's pre-school also seemed awful, not very may toys, the staff was lovely (except the manager) but the kids were just left to roam for 3 hours and then told off for not behaving, of course, they were bored, especially the older ones.

I then checked Ofsted - just about satisfactory, but what I saw as a parent helper wasn't even that. I didn't realise that the Council was already involved - the pre-school closed last July and was put out for tender.

Now, this Sept a new provider started - they seem great and have had an Outstanding rating for 5 years.

madwomanintheattic Fri 21-Sep-12 17:39:31


An 'outstanding' ofsted doesn't preclude the arrival of runners in a new intake. grin

Our outstanding primary had a few. When they completely secured the perimeter such that parents couldn't get into the grounds either, he took to climbing onto the roof.

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