Crawley playgroup where toddler escaped reopens with a new six foot fence

Milton Mount Play Group in Pound Hill, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150518-100320008
Milton Mount Play Group in Pound Hill, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150518-100320008

A Crawley playgroup which was closed after a child escaped has reopened with a six foot fence around the site.

Ofsted closed Milton Mount Playgroup after a member of the public found a three-year-old girl wandering alone in a nearby park in Milton Mount, Pound Hill, on May 12.

Milton Mount Play Group in Pound Hill, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150518-100440008

Milton Mount Play Group in Pound Hill, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150518-100440008

The nursery reopened on June 1 with new safety measures including six foot fences around the site.

Manager Sharon Young said: “It’s really nice to be open so soon.

“We are just carrying on as we were with the new safety measures.

“Parents say they trust us which is what we want - children’s safety is paramount.”

Ofsted closed the nursery while it investigated the incident.

Sharon said six members of staff were looking after 27 children when the child escaped.

The girl escaped by climbing a three-foot fence in a cordoned off area.

Sharon said staff did not know how the child got through the barriers.

She said children were allowed to move freely within the nursery and added: “There would have been lots going on.”

The woman who found the child called police at 2.50pm. A police spokesman said officers took the girl to the playgroup and explained she had been found nearby.”

A police spokesman said: “The playgroup staff then checked and realised the girl was missing.

“The girl was brought back to the playgroup and reunited with her grandmother who had arrived to collect her. She was not hurt. The staff and the girl were spoken to and she told police she climbed over a 3ft fence to get out.”

A woman who identified herself as the girl’s mother said on Facebook: “My daughter who is three and a little monkey escaped from her playgroup today. She climbed over a fence and was off. She was found by three lovely women in Worth Park.”

She thanked the women and added: “It was 50 minutes before a call was put into police to say my daughter had gone missing from her nursery as they were unaware she had and it wasn’t until she was due to be picked up and a family member was asking where she was that they realised it was actually her! I’m disgusted!”

Milton Mount’s registration was suspended after Ofsted carried out an unannounced inspection the day after.

Staff were interviewed and the playgroup, which is based in Milton Mount Community Centre, was shut after children had left.

Parents were contacted and an independent investigation was carried out the following week.

The nursery put up a six foot palisade fence in the out-of-bounds area, which cost £500.

Crawley Borough Council, which owns the site, paid for half of it.

Sharon added a six foot fence would replace the four foot fence in a grassed area at the site at a cost of £575.

She said it would make all the fences around the site six foot tall.

Ofsted lifted the suspension on May 22.

Sharon said no staff had been sacked at the charity playgroup, which was rated Good by Ofsted in 2013.

All but two of the not-for-profit’s 69 children have returned since the incident.

Sharon said: “We’ve had an awful lot of messages of support.

“Parental support has been phenomenal - they have been so supportive it’s been unreal.

“I would just like to thank all our parents and children that have been here for their wonderful support.”

She thanked the council for its prompt support but added concerns over the fence were raised with the council five years ago.

She said: “We had concerns that the fence was low - it’s been ongoing for years.

“They thought that as a community centre it was a suitable height.”

A spokesman for the council said: “If a hirer feels that a fence needs to be higher for a specific need to cater for their activity, they should submit their requirements to the council for approval of the change.

“If granted, it’s the hirer’s responsibility - not the council’s - to make these changes and fund them. Milton Mount Playgroup has recently done this.”

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