Yarmouth children’s centre to close after damning Ofsted

AN under-fire day care centre for autistic children is to close despite efforts to battle back from a damning Ofsted report.

Smart Kids OK, in Great Yarmouth, was inspected by Ofsted in October and a report found staff refused to accept medication for children with long-term health conditions such as asthma or nut allergies, drinking water was not freely available and inadequate staff training was having an impact on youngsters’ development.

The centre has now indicated it is to close by the end of the month, weeks after former manager Jacky Porter resigned.

A spokeswoman for Norfolk County Council, which had been working with staff to overcome problem, said: “We have been made aware of Smart Kids OK plans to close at the end of the month and are working to ensure they are adequate childcare places in the area for those who attend.

“Smart Kids had been working with us to try to make the improvements needed but sadly can no longer continue.”

Ofsted had set the centre a dozen targets to be met by a final deadline of February 28, and failure to do so would see them removed from the watchdog’s register.

Ofsted has yet to publish the outcome on its website, but it is understood that Smart Kids OK intends to launch a new centre after the closure.

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“We have heard about the possibility of new provision in Belton but this is at the very early stages and would need to be approved and registered with Ofsted before it could open,” added the council’s spokeswoman.

Lead Ofsted inspector Lynn Clements found nothing about the centre better than inadequate when she visited in October.

She also noted there was a rodent trap with poison in the outdoor area and uneven surfaces.

Both of these were said to “pose a significant threat to children’s safety.”

Jacky Porter, the centre’s former manager and founder, was the designated safeguarding officer but the report noted she: “has not completed required training for this role.”

Ms Porter resigned in February and deputy manager Claire Harding has been acting as manager at the Gapton Hall Road centre since that time.

Smart Kids OK had 88 children on its roll, cared for children up to eight years old and was run by The Autistic Way.

It opened in 2001 and operated from single-storey premises which had been purposely converted for use by children with special educational needs or learning difficulties, in particular those with autistic spectrum disorders.

Andy Bane, company secretary, was not available for comment.