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Nursery ‘should be closed’

Official concern: the First Church of God on North Shore, Pembroke

Officials investigating a nursery where three toddlers wandered off on their own for about 15 minutes have said its operating licence should be suspended until an inquiry is completed.

The parents of one child involved in the incident were told in a letter that a “neglect investigation” had been launched after reports of the incident.

A Department of Child and Family Services social worker wrote: “The department has documented the outcome as substantiated, whereby staff of the First Church of God daycare centre failed to provide adequate supervision on the morning of July 24, 2018, which resulted in three two-year-olds absconding from the premises for a period of time.

“The information provided also shows that the school neglected to contact parents in a timely manner regarding the incident and failed to provide them with accurate information regarding how far the children had actually gotten.”

The letter added that a series of recommendations from the environmental health department were given to the school “to be taken into consideration and implemented to reduce the likelihood of similar or worse incidents occurring in the future”.

Among these were that the nursery acted on proposals made by environmental health officals that said: “The daycare centre should have a suspension of licence of operation, until such time as a complete investigation into the matter has been carried out and all of its finding communicated to all relevant parties involved.”

Social services acted in response to an incident where three youngsters aged two were found playing in a “construction site” after they left a Pembroke daycare centre last month.

Anxious parents claimed staff at the First Church of God nursery were slow to make contact and failed to alert them to the seriousness of the incident after the children were spotted and returned by North Shore residents.

The department recommended a health and safety review of the nursery’s policies as well as an investigation into the two teachers responsible for the class.

The letter also said a fence should be fixed “immediately”, a gate in the car park should be “locked or latched at all times” and a mandatory sign-in for all children should be introduced.

The final recommendation said: “Staff to review the policy for parental notification regarding incidents with children. Should no policy exist, the school is to develop one.”

The father of one of the children involved hoped to see a church representative today about employment after he gave up work to care for his child in the wake of the incident. But he remains upset about how the situation was handled.

He said: “Bermuda is one of the most expensive countries in the world and we are paying for these centres but there is no surety in our children’s safety.

“What would have happened if my son had got hurt?”

He was among parents who said they contacted the nursery themselves after they found out about the incident from other people.

The father agreed with earlier accounts that when he first spoke to school staff the matter was “downplayed” and also hit out at the recommendations that had been made.

He said: “This isn’t doing anything to hold these people accountable, they’re just saying their licence should be suspended until they rectify these things that were supposed to be implemented before they started taking children.”

The 37-year-old added: “The teachers that were responsible, that were supposed to be looking after the children, are still there.

“How are these women allowed to lose three children and maintain their job in this field?”

He added: “We haven’t received a call from the Government. These people can come and knock on my door when it’s vote time but they can’t make sure that my child is safe.”

Calls to Denniqua Matthew, the nursery’s director, and the church’s Bishop Vernon Lambe were not returned and the Government did not respond to a request for comment by press time.