Little Sprouts Playgroup in Ipswich closes after second inadequate Ofsted report results in funding cut

Little Sprouts Nursery in Ipswich, which has closed after going from outstanding to inadequate in tw

Little Sprouts Nursery in Ipswich, which has closed after going from outstanding to inadequate in two years. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Staff

An Ipswich playgroup which has gone from outstanding to inadequate in just two years has been forced to close its doors for good after a second damning Ofsted inspection, leaving dozens of families hastily finding new places for their children.

Little Sprouts Playgroup in Bramford Lane was judged to be inadequate during a visit by inspectors in December.

But following a re-inspection last month and published last week, inspectors have still found serious failures at the playgroup.

With government policy requiring the local education authority to withdraw funding and remove the lease, staff say the nursery has closed for good.

Birch Farm Nursery in Hintlesham improves Ofsted from inadequate to requires improvement

Bridget Calderwood, committee member for the playgroup said: “Despite the continuing hard work and dedication of staff working directly with the children at Little Sprouts Playgroup the setting was devastated by Ofsted’s findings that were directly linked to the senior committee members and some of the management team. Ofsted have very strict rules around the time scale in which safeguarding issues are reported to social services and because of an oversight these timescales were broken.

“Ofsted therefore suspended the settings registration in order for us to rectify this which we did and would have reopened after the summer holidays.

“Unfortunately as we received two inadequate ratings in the space of six months it is Suffolk County Council’s policy to withdraw all funding and remove the lease to the building, meaning we had nowhere to work and no money to reopen meaning we have now closed on a permanent basis.

“Staff would like to thank the children and parent/carers for their continued support at what has been an extremely difficult time for all concerned.

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“I would also like to thank all the staff for their hard work and dedication to the children and the playgroup we are all very sad but hope to move on to new ventures.”

Inspector Daniella Tyler’s report said that the committee “fail to identify serious weaknesses within the playgroup that put children at risk of harm,” and added that the management demonstrated a “very poor understanding” of safeguarding.

The report added: “As a result, children are placed at risk of harm. Following the inspection, Ofsted made the decision to suspend the provider’s registration with immediate effect due to the risk to children’s safety and welfare.”

The playgroup had around 60 youngsters on its roll, meaning families are having to arrange alternatives ahead of September.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said the education team had been working closely with the playgroup since December, but confirmed it had been forced to withdraw funding when Ofsted cancelled the registration.

He said: “Since Little Sprouts Playgroup received its first ‘inadequate’ rating, council staff had been working closely with the provider to help them meet Ofsted’s requirements.

“However, the playgroup has now received its second ‘inadequate’ judgement within six months relating to safeguarding of children.

“Suffolk County Council must follow the Department for Education’s statutory guidance, and when Ofsted took steps to cancel Little Sprouts’ registration in June it had little choice but to withdraw the funding for early education places

“The council is actively seeking a new provider to lease the building via a formal expressions of interest process.

“In the meantime, Suffolk County Council is working to support families in the area to find a suitable alternative provision.”

The playgroup is one of a number of early years providers in Ipswich to have faced a troubled six months.

In December Birch Farm Complex Day Care Nursery in Hintlesham was given an inadequate Ofsted, although improved to requires improvement following a re-inspection last month.

An Ofsted report published in February found the Busy Bees Nursery in St Andrews Walk to also be inadequate.