Failing Erith nursery closed
PUBLISHED: 11:00 03 November 2018
A failing nursery in Erith where a child was allegedly smacked has been closed following a court battle.
Ofsted removed the licence from Bright Steps Nursery in Bexley Road in January after a number of interventions by both the watchdog and the police.
Inspectors stepped in after concerns were raised that the nursery was failing in its responsibility to keep children safe and to learn from its mistakes.
In January 2018 a police investigation was launched after Ofsted was informed a witness saw “a child being smacked whilst at the nursery.”
The licence was pulled days after the report, but Saula Ogunkoya, the licence holder, took the education watchdog to court.
Following an appeal, a tribunal was held in September this year at the Royal Courts of Justice.
The decision, published earlier this month, said Mr Ogunkoya failed to work openly with Ofsted and probably destroyed CCTV of the alleged incident.
Judge Gillian Irving QC said: “We accept evidence that [the witness] saw a little girl being smacked and that she approached the person who had smacked the child who, when asked, confirmed she worked at the nursery.
“Whether this person was the child’s parent we do not know but we are satisfied that this incident occurred.
“The appellant has provided inconsistent accounts and despite being given repeated opportunity by the panel he has still not been honest about events.”
According to the judge, at a meeting on January 24 the licence holder said the nursery was closed on the day of the alleged smacking, then he said staff were on site training but no children were present.
“He said there was no CCTV available for that day. Then he said the CCTV had got damaged in a flood but he hadn’t discovered this until after November 2017 and he hadn’t replaced it.
“His account in relation to the existence or absence of CCTV footage was wholly lacking any credibility and leads us to believe that there was CCTV footage of the incident which he did not want anyone to see hence the great lengths he then took to destroy it,” the judge said.
Judge Irving said the response into the investigation by Mr Ogunkoya was “unacceptable”, adding “his response is consistent with that of someone who has something to hide. The child was smacked, and he knows which child and by whom.”
The tribunal upheld Ofsted’s decision to close the nursery down.
A spokesman for Ofsted said: “Ofsted is pleased that the tribunal upheld our decision to cancel this provider’s registration. We do not take these decisions lightly.
“Our priority is to ensure that all children are well looked after, receive good quality care and a high standard of education.
“In this instance, as the judge has reported, cancellation of registration was found to be a proportionate response to the nursery’s failure to safeguard children, the lack of satisfactory learning and development opportunities and concerns relating to the appellant’s suitability.”
Bright Steps did not respond to calls and emails asking for comment.