A trawl of the reports, published online by the HSE, show Lorraine O’Malley’s Montessori on Church Rd, Ballina, was the only Mayo preschool inspected to fully meet all the requirements under the childcare regulations in 2012.
St Tiernan’s Community Playschool in Crossmolina managed to have Garda vetting for all staff as well as satisfactory references, but was criticised by the HSE inspector for failing to anchor an outdoor climbing frame at a time when more than eight children were using it.
It was also criticised for not maintaining “the dignity of the children” because of half doors in toilets. In a right of reply, a creche spokesperson said they were awaiting advice on how to anchor the frame and full height toilet doors had been ordered.
Among the more significant issues highlighted in the reports included:
* An emergency door obstructed by a small table, with an art work drying rack resting on it at Knockmore Rathduff Childcare Playschool in Knockmore Village, Ballina. In response to the criticism, the creche said the emergency exits are now clear and the drying rack moved elsewhere.
* A cord attached to a boat in an outdoor shed was accessible to children and could have been pulled down on top of them, at Rita’s Playgroup, Ballyhaunis, where biscuits and a drink were the only food consumed by the children on the day of inspection. The creche responded by saying the cord had been removed and parents advised to send in a sandwich or fruit and yoghurt.
* At Mulranney Community Playgroup, inspectors said the door rom playroom to kitchen was left open on “numerous occasions” allowing children unauthorised access to the kitchen where sharp knives were accessible. The creche responded that the kitchen door is now locked.
* Children were changed on a changing mat on the floor because the changing unit was unaccessible at Charlestown Community Childcare, Barrack St (Happy Feet Creche and Pre-School Charlestown Community Childcare Ltd). The creche said in response that it intended to make the unit fit for purpose.
* Exposed pipes and un-secured entrances and exits at the outdoor play area at Bilberries Playgroup, Islandeady, Castlebar. The creche said they were getting quotes to address this.
* At Naíonra Nead na nÓg in Ballinrobe, where three out of six staff had no Garda vetting, inspectors noted a “distinct mouldy smell”.
Other common themes across the reports were the use of cloth rather than paper hand towels (the regulations require the latter), the absence of a rest area in playrooms, and poor ventilation.
Separately, Early Childhood Ireland published results of a survey yesterday claiming that just one in four pre-schools have been inspected since 2011.
Teresa Heeney, chief operations officer, said they recognised that a very large amount of non-compliance was due to Garda vetting but that “this is out of the control of our members, who, like the rest of the country are experiencing delays of up to four months to have Garda vetting requests returned”.