CHILDREN and babies are at risk of harm at a Basingstoke nursery which has been graded as “inadequate” by Ofsted and is now subject to enforcement action.

Willowdene Nursery School, in Reading Road, Chineham was visited by inspectors from the education watchdog on December 10, and a report published on January 6 found the provision to be “inadequate”.

The report said staff “place children at continued risk of harm”, adding: “Significant weaknesses in staff’s knowledge of how to protect children from risk of harm compromise children’s safety. Leaders who hold responsibility for sharing information and liaising with safeguarding agencies fail to fulfil their roles sufficiently.”

Inspectors found that self-evaluation and monitoring of the nursery were “ineffective and do not ensure children’s safety”.

The report said: “The provider fails to oversee the role of the designated safeguarding lead effectively or monitor staff’s implementation of the nursery’s safeguarding policy. Staff do not act quickly, or efficiently, when a concern arises.”

It found safeguarding was not effective, with staff failing to keep robust records; failing to make timely referrals of safeguarding concerns; inaccurate advice given to staff by safeguarding leads; adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach rather than taking swift action when concerns arise; and ineffectively sharing information with schools and safeguarding professionals.

The report said: “The level of information supplied is of poor quality and is shared by staff who minimise the seriousness of the concerns through their failure to recognise fully what these signs and symptoms mean.”

Willowdene was previously graded as “outstanding” by Ofsted after its last inspection in 2015.

Despite the overall “inadequate” rating following the recent inspection, Ofsted found the quality of education and behaviour were both “good”, while personal development and leadership were “inadequate”.

The report said: “Despite these serious weaknesses, staff support children’s learning well. They provide effective interventions for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), supporting their successful start in readiness for their move to the next stage of their education.

“Staff promote a curriculum that motivates children to learn and that helps children fulfil their individual learning potential.”

It added: “However, despite the strong foundation for children’s emotional well-being and good support for their behaviour, these are undermined by the weaknesses in safeguarding. Children’s personal development and well-being cannot be assured.”

Ofsted found staff feel “valued” and spoke positively about access to ongoing support, including for their mental health.

Whilst they had opportunities for supervision, training and regular staff meetings to discuss children’s learning, support was not effective for safeguarding matters.

The report said: “Staff's failure to act to safeguard children means babies and older children experience a false sense of security in the nursery, despite showing they feel settled and happy. Children's 'voices' are not heard or acted on when they share concerns with the adults who they trust and confide in. This compromises children's emotional well-being.”

As a result of the concerns found by Ofsted, it has taken enforcement action and issued a ‘Welfare Requirement Notice’, requiring the nursery to make various improvements within set deadlines.

These include ensuring the safeguarding lead is capable of fulfilling the role; training all staff to understand safeguarding; notifying agencies about concerns for children’s safety without delay; and maintaining robust records.

Willowdene, which opened in 1982, has 53 children on its roll aged nought to four, and is open weekdays from 7.30am to 6pm, 51 weeks of the year.

The nursery has been asked for a comment.