Hintlesham nursery owners hit out at Ofsted for “heavy-handed” and “intimidating” inspection resulting in ‘Inadequate’ rating

Birch Farm Nursery are appealing against their 'Inadequate' Oftsted rating following an inspection i

Birch Farm Nursery are appealing against their 'Inadequate' Oftsted rating following an inspection in January. Rebecca Freeman and Mini Shakespeare with Ivy, Christopher, Hope and Daisy. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The owners of a nursery near Hadleigh rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted have criticised government inspections for being “heavy-handed” and “too generalised”.

Daisy having fun on the climbing frame. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Daisy having fun on the climbing frame. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Mini and Darren Shakespeare, who run Birch Farm pre-school in Hintlesham, said they were devastated that, in their opinion, their most recent inspection did not fairly represent the standard of the nursery.

They claim that the inspector, who assessed the pre-school last month, conducted an “intimidating” complaints-driven review of the nursery – drawing generalised conclusions on the basis of two human errors witnessed during the inspection.

According to Ms Shakespeare, one incident – in which a child’s injury was not correctly reported – was blown out of proportion.

“Sadly a member of staff had seen a bruise on a child’s leg but had not completed an existing injury form or reported it to me as I was offsite,” she said.


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“She and another member of staff did, however, make a note to monitor the child.

“This note was read by Ofsted who deemed that the staff in question did not know what to do regarding safeguarding. Although we were able to prove in writing that all staff know what to do and can act when required, showing them staff one-to-ones as written evidence, this was not acceptable to them.”

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Birch Farm has since put an action plan in place to address the specific issues raised, and is planning an appeal.

Ms Shakespeare added: “This is a devastating blow to us. Every member of staff is devastated.

“Our concerns are twofold. Firstly, the Ofsted inspectors’ approach was once again very heavy handed as to how they observed classes and interviewed staff. They were really intimidating and gave the impression that they were looking for things to criticise.

“Secondly, we admit we made an error in terms of communicating one particular issue, but are bewildered that this alone is being used as the basis for generalising that “children’s welfare is placed at risk of significant harm.

“This really is about for the want of a nail, the kingdom was lost. One administrative safeguarding oversight is being used to undermine our whole business.”

Graham White, Suffolk representative for the National Education Union and National Union of Teachers, said that while he considered safeguarding of children of the utmost importance, he urged the pre-school to launch an appeal.

He said: “Ofsted is generally not a helpful way of dealing with schools. It is a results-driven organisation, and quite often [the inspectors] are not experts in their field.

“Due to workload and pressure there can be things that are missed. This inspection seems to have picked up on a number of minor issues.

“I would urge an appeal if they are unhappy with the report.”

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “We can confirm that this setting has been inspected, and that a report will be published shortly.

“Ofsted takes all complaints very seriously. If a provider is dissatisfied following an inspection then they can submit a complaint in line with our published complaints policy, which Ofsted will investigate thoroughly and as quickly as possible.”

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