Ofsted apology over handling report on Essex girl's death

The education watchdog Ofsted has apologised for the way it dealt with the parents of a two-year old girl who died in an Essex nursery playground.

Rhiya Malin suffered a fatal heart attack after her neck became trapped between the roof and the gable end of a playhouse at Eton Manor Day Nursery in Chigwell, Essex, in 2007.

It took the regulator, the Office for Standards in Education, two years to sit down and discuss the case with her parents, Jay and Shatl Malin.

The meeting only occurred after the intervention of the then Secretary of State, Ed Balls.

'History erased'

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's You & Yours programme, Ofsted's director of education and care, Patrick Leeson, said: "It was certainly the case that for a considerable amount of time after the tragic death of their daughter it took some time for Ofsted to have a face to face meeting with the Malins which is what they needed and I have since met them several times and apologised for that.

"Ofsted was dealing with this through the Malin's solicitors dealing with it in a legalistic way and what, of course, was needed was a human approach to this situation."

Mr Leeson says Ofsted now has a "named person" available for the parents of a child who dies.

The Malins had been waiting to see what Ofsted might say about the death of their daughter in information it publishes on its website, but were concerned to discover the nursery's owners had reregistered the premises with Ofsted under a different company name.

Talking about the Ofsted website, Shatl Malin said: "It's meant that all of their previous history has been erased.

'No cover up'

"It was the same company, same directors, same everything."

The company - Casterbridge Care and Education Ltd - had transferred Eton Manor and four other premises to another of its companies called Casterbridge Nurseries Ltd.

The company told us its re-registration had "absolutely nothing to do with Rhiya's death or with any attempt to cover up any issue".

It was simply seeking to consolidate its various companies.

Ofsted told You & Yours us that it cannot publicly link the regulatory history of one company to another in its inspection reports and that to do so would require a change in the law.

"We do believe that parents should have access to the previous history of previous providers when a reregistration has occurred," says Mr Leeson.

"We pressed the previous Secretary of State and the current government to make a change in the law to enable us to do that and the response has been a positive one."

In the meantime, Ofsted is planning to change its website so parents can find previous inspection reports for themselves.

'Neck became trapped'

"There will be a link to the previously registered provision and the available reports," said Mr Leeson.

He added that previously they would all have disappeared from Ofsted's website because the registration "no longer existed".

An inquest into Rhiya's death in December 2010 recorded a narrative verdict.

The jurors ruled that Rhiya had "entered into a playhouse unnoticed" and that having gained height "using a scooter to reach the open gable end of the modified playhouse her neck became trapped".

A post-mortem examination showed she died after having a "cardiac arrest following compression of the neck".

A full report on this story will be broadcast on You & Yours on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 26 May and will be available on iPlayer.

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