Owner blames Ofsted for nursery closure

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The owner of a Tysoe nursery has accused Ofsted of effectively closing his business, branding a recent inspection report as very unfair.

Steve Taylor, who owns the Winchcome Farm Day Nursery, took the decision to permanently close the business on 22nd December with all 24 staff being made redundant.

Steve says an Ofsted report published earlier this month, which rated the nursery as ‘requires improvement’ was the final straw for the business, which has been struggling for some time.

Hugely increased running costs, decreased funding for Nursery Education Grant have all affected the business over recent times with the owner ploughing thousands of pounds into it each month to keep it afloat.

Though the Ofsted report highlights some positives such as the training of staff and pupil’s knowledge of the natural world, it also points to several areas where improvement is needed.

It says teachers should better use assessment to plan activities, and says staff do not fully support children’s understanding of families and traditions beyond their own experiences.

In a letter to parents Steve disputes the contents of the Ofsted report, saying criticisms such as children using knives and forks to eat mashed potatoes rather than a spoon, which were highlighted by the inspector in a feedback session, showed that they were determined to find fault.

The nursery previously had a rating of good.

In the letter Steve states: “We know that a ‘requires improvement’ rating will severely impact on new parents choosing to visit the nursery in the New Year and is therefore effectively a commercial death sentence. This was pointed out to the Inspector at the time of the inspection but she seemed singularly unimpressed and frankly couldn’t care less. It is difficult to express my anger at the attitude taken by the inspector and the ineptitude of government departments across the board.”

Speaking to the Herald, Steve said: “It’s devastating that one person’s opinion can cause such horrendous damage. This inspection was triggered because we are planning to convert two outdoor classrooms, about 100 meters from the main building, into holiday lets and someone queried whether there could be a safeguarding issue with this. As soon as the word safeguarding was mentioned they sent their hit squad, and they said that because we have not had an inspection in a while, they would carry out an-on-the-spot inspection of the whole school. Usually you get notice of such an inspection, we had none.

“In the feedback session at the end, the inspector said the nursery was too white and middle class, saying our diversity policy wasn’t up to scratch. We presented lots of evidence and explained how we celebrate events like Chinese New Year, Eid and Australia day at the school, but she just wouldn’t listen.

“When we found out the result I phoned Ofsted and told them that a rating of requires improvement was a death sentence to a rural nursery like ours, but they just couldn’t understand it at all. If you were a parent and you looked on your Iphone, you would immediately be put off by that.

“We had 30 staff in the summer and 24 remaining who lost their jobs on 22nd December. This inspection along with the Government’s 30 hours free childcare policy has led to 30 people here going on the dole.

“This closure is a shock to staff and to parents, who can see we are a good nursery. Ofsted don’t see that they just tick a box. It’s horrible for the staff, parents, children and to me, it feels like I have wasted 15 years and hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

Steve added that parents were being supported in finding spaces elsewhere for their children and that some former members of staff would be acting as nannies for some.

59 children attended Winchcombe Farm Day Nursery prior to its closure.

Parents have taken to social media to express their sadness at the nursery’s closure.

Stacey Newton wrote: “I couldn’t be more upset reading this. As a past employee I cannot praise the setting higher.

“Having recently visited with my own daughter, my husband and I couldn’t be more certain in the decision to send our daughter there having watched it grow into an even more exceptional place.

“This setting has been a huge part of many people’s lives and the hard work and dedication of staff past, present and founders is one of passion and sheer focus on the development of the children!

“I can only express shock and sadness and know that decisions are not always in the hands of those we wish they were.

“Thank you Winchcombe for being a place where I grew, life long friendships grew, children grew and know that there is an army of people who are feeling the devastation alongside you. Xx”

Tony King added: “Genuinely saddened and disgusted to hear this news.

“But please be proud that you and the team created a faultless environment for our children and you set them on a great path for which we will always be grateful.”