“Hello, Helen? It’s nursery calling”
When I answered the phone on Monday, I did think it was unusual that nursery would be calling me. After all, my son was with my Mother-in-law and had been since 9 o’clock that morning. What the nursery manager continued to tell me was not that our payment was late, or that chicken pox was rife. It went a little something like this;
“Well you know we had the Ofstead back in April?” Did I?
“Oh, I missed that, sorry – I bet it was on the news letter and I skimmed it but-”
“Well we got inadequate again” AGAIN? ” and the owner has decided to close the business on Friday” FRIDAY?
“Er…OK. So Friday?”
“Yeah, so this is the last week. Obviously the changes that are needed the business can’t afford, so it’s closing”
“Right, well thanks for letting me know” Thanks? Helen, you moron, a week’s barely notice…
Why hadn’t I realised?
I was in total disbelief. How did I neglect to realise my son was attending an inadequate nursery? Having worked in schools for the last God knows how many years, I know that ‘Inadequate’ really is the bottom of the barrel. The inspectors didn’t even deem the nursery Satisfactory! All care, at the very least should be satisfactory – surely?
I had visions of my son and his toddler friends being left in their own filth while the staff had a fag and got pissed in the home corner. In my mind, doors were being left open for any Bob, Dick or Harry to freely waltz in and out as they pleased. Perhaps the ceiling was falling down and cables were hanging over spitting out red hot bolts inches away from the sleeping babies.
Of course, none of this is true. There was one time he had a bruise on his leg and I’d not had an accident slip essentially because he hadn’t given two hoots about falling on to a tambourine – or was that what really happened?. He never likes being dropped off, he cries every time, but that’s just how he is – isn’t it?. It’s as if the more I think about it, the more I feel like I brushed off obvious signs of something being wrong. Surely day to day I would have noticed his level of care being inadequate?
Am I inadequate?
The whole thing made me wonder if perhaps my own expectations of childcare have been low to start with. I never expected to question myself in terms of the care I provide or how I expect my son to be cared for. Perhaps I really am a bit slack in the parenting department after all. May be I haven’t picked up on the standard of care because it’s not far off my own, evidently shoddy standards.
Deep down I simply don’t believe that either. I mean, no one’s perfect but I’ll give myself and indeed my instincts a little more credit that that. What makes me so sad is that in the last 6 months, my son has built wonderful relationships with the girls in his room, as have I. They know his quirks, they know his funny phrases and signs. That when he needs a sleep he will get his blanket and look for his dodo. No report can deny the fact that for 3 days a week, these women have cared for my son as if he was their own.
When I went in to nursery the following day the car park was full of mums stood gossiping about what had gone on. From what I gathered, an anonymous parent had complained to Ofsted (without removing their own children from the care of the nursery). This had prompted an inspection, the business couldn’t afford the changes. Game over.
I wonder if the parent anticipated the closure of their childcare provider? Did they know that the staff would be left redundant? That they would have to search for another childcare provider? I can’t help but think that they wouldn’t have been so bothered if they left the children in the care of the people they were complaining about. If I felt so compelled by something I had witnessed that Ofsted needed to be informed, I’m not sure I’d have left my most precious thing in the world in their care for days at a time.
As of Friday we were without childcare. With my working from home it’s not too bad. It’s not like I have an office to be in at 9 o’clock in the morning. More than that, Chops is bored stiff in my company everyday. I can’t give him nearly as much as a nursery can. I could go to every parent toddler group ever. It wouldn’t fill the nursery shaped hole in his world.
Luckily, we’ve found another nursery. I’ll admit that on arrival it did feel calmer and better equipped. He’ll be there 2 mornings a week which is less than before but it’s more expensive (bet they didn’t think of that either when they picked up the phone to Ofsted). I’ve checked their latest report and they are due another inspection so who can say. When our old nurseries report comes out, I really don’t want to see it. I made my own judgement, and it was a good one.
Although, what’s Good today may well be Inadequate tomorrow.