A damning report today revealed that the nursery where paedophile Vanessa George carried out a series of horrific sex attacks on young children ”provided an ideal environment” for her to abuse.
The Serious Case Review into the abuse at Little Ted’s nursery in Plymouth, Devon, found that a lack of formal staff supervision was partly to blame for the sexual abuse.
It also highlighted that George was able to work at the nursery due to an ”absence of safe recruitment procedures” and an ”informal recruitment process”.
George, 40, from Plymouth, was jailed indefinitely this year after she admitted abusing toddlers at the nursery and photographing the attacks.
The nursery was closed in June last year and Plymouth City Council started a serious case review to find out how the catalogue of sick abuse was allowed to take place.
Today the review showed the nursery failed to ”provide a safe, positive environment for children in it’s care.”
The report also criticised Ofsted and the nursery inspection regime, stating that inspections at Little Ted’s were ”not rigorous enough”.
It added there was a culture where staff at Little Ted’s were afraid to challenge George’s increasingly sexualised behaviour, and staff had no-one to voice their complaints to.
The report stated: ”The nursery provided an ideal environment within which she could abuse.
”The lack of effective external controls, a setting where management was weak, and a blurring of boundaries across several groupings resulted in a situation where the opportunity to abuse was available.
”The fact that the manager had not been trained in safer recruitment procedures, the informality of the recruitment processes and lack of formal staff supervision within the nursery, did not allow vulnerabilities to be identified and managed within the work environment.”
The report went on to state that staff did not feel they had anyone to turn to, despite the ”increasing concerns” of fellow staff regarding George’s sexualised behaviour.
It added: ”Although George was not senior in her position, other factors such as her age, personality and length of service could have created an illusion of position of power and encouraged a sense of trust.
”Her position of power within the staff group was such that although staff became increasingly concerned about her crude language, discussion of extra-marital relationships and showing indecent images of adults on her phone, they were unable to challenge her.”
The report revealed that 18-stone George used her huge bulk to hide children from view as she committed her crimes.
It read: ”Nappy changing took place in the toilet area which could be seen from the area of the main room where staff prepared snacks with the children.
”According to the manager, the toilet door was usually propped open as it was a heavy door and she was concerned about children trapping their fingers in it as it closed.
”Most staff changed nappies on the main nappy changing area easily visible to other staff; she, however, started to use the cubicle with the full door, saying she could not bend down due to her size.
”Although the door was open her body blocked the line of vision from the nursery to the child.”
George admitted seven sexual assaults and six counts of making and distributing indecent pictures of children.
She used a mobile phone to take pictures of herself abusing toddlers and sent them to Colin Blanchard, 39, from Rochdale, Lancs., who forwarded them to Angela Allen, from Nottingham.
Allen, 39, admitted four child sex assaults and one count of distributing an indecent image and was jailed for a minimum of seven years.
Blanchard pleaded guilty to 17 offences relating to indecent images of children and two sexual assaults on children and is awaiting sentence.
They shared indecent images over the internet after meeting on the social networking website Facebook.
Nurseries have had to be registered through Ofsted since 2001 and the organisation’s regime also came under scrutiny.
An inspection in 2008 – about seven months before George began abusing children there – rated Little Ted’s nursery as ”good” for protecting children from harm or neglect.
39 page report
However, from staff interviews and discussions with parents as well as a review of the records, it was apparent that Little Ted’s did not provide a safe, positive environment for children in its care.
The report said: ”This would indicate that either the individual inspections were not rigorous enough, or the framework for inspection is not adequate.”
SCRs are usually four to six pages long, but the Safeguarding Children Board has released a 39 page report saying it is to ”enable the public, including the families affected, to understand as fully as possible its findings.”
The report has made a number of local recommendations, which the Plymouth Safeguarding Children Board said were already being implemented.
It also made a number of national recommendations including better working practices between Ofsted and partner agencies.
The report highlights how Plymouth’s Early Years Advisory Service ”flagged concerns over a period of time” relating to management and the nursery’s ability to adapt to practices expected.
An SCR is usually only ordered following a serious incident or death of a child. However, the board said it launched the review due to the ”extremely unusual circumstances” of the case.
The ”lessons learned” include recognition of the danger of mobile phones within day care setting.
However, the report also states that though banning phones was an ”important preventative measure” it adds ”this alone will not prevent abuse taking place”.
The report urges a greater role for the Early Years Service, with more influence on inspections.
The review also suggests Government should ”review and consider” tighter rules on nursery’s which operate as ”unincorporated bodies”.