A two-year-old boy wandered 200 metres on his own towards a busy main road after escaping from his nursery.
The toddler walked out of an open door at Squirrels Day Care Centre in Toronto Avenue, Bispham and crossed at least one road on his own as he made his way towards the busy junction of Collins Avenue and Bispham Road.
We are taking this very seriously and we have put extra safeguarding measures in place to prevent something like this happening again.Miss Hodgkinson
A horrified driver who found the youngster told police she almost mowed him down during rush hour traffic, officers said.
She got out of her car, took the boy to a nearby shop and called police.
Nursery staff today admitted they had only called in police themselves 35 minutes after he was found because they thought he was hiding inside the nursery. Education watchdog Ofsted has now launched an investigation into the incident, which the nursery said was ‘a one-off’ and has ‘sincerely’ apologised for.
Squirrels Day Care Centre manager Becky Hodgkinson told said a student member of staff is no longer working at the nursery while an internal investigation is carried out.
Extra safety gates have now been installed, CCTV will also be fitted as will alarms that sound when an external door is opened, she said.
An inspector from Ofsted visited the nursery, which has been open for more than 20 years, on Monday to grill staff about the incident.
A spokesman said: “We are aware of the incident and we are investigating.”
Miss Hodgkinson said staff followed the nursery’s missing child procedure as soon as they noticed the boy was missing.
She said: “The nursery has been open for 20-odd years and this has never happened before.
“We are taking this very seriously and we have put extra safeguarding measures in place to prevent something like this happening again.
“We are sincerely sorry for any distress caused. It was such an unfortunate incident and one we are not taking lightly.
“All the other parents have been informed and they are all happy for their children to carry on attending because they have faith in us.
“They have been supportive.”
The parents of the youngster involved have now withdrawn him from the nursery’s care after last Friday’s incident.
Miss Hodgkinson said the child had slipped out of the kitchen door, which had been opened while rubbish was being taken outside shortly after 4pm, before being accidentally locked out.
She said: “As all the doors and windows were locked, the assumption was he must have been hiding in the setting.
“It was during the search, alarm started to set in.”
Rachael Turner, whose two-year-old son Frankie has been attending the nursery since he was around seven months old, said: “I’ve tried to put myself in the [boy’s] parents’ shoes.
“If he was found safe and sound at the end of the street, it would be a misdemeanour I could accept. No harm was done.
“With certainty I know that when I drop Frankie off he is happy, safe, and loved.
“He loves it. He bounds down the path.
“I feel so sorry this has happened, it was just an unfortunate accident.”
A police spokesman said: “We were called around 4.15pm on Friday, October 9 to an address in Bispham Road after reports a two-year-old boy had been found in the street.
“Officers attended and the boy was collected and taken to Bispham Police Station.
“We were later called to an address in Toronto Avenue at around 4.50pm after reports a two-year-old boy had gone missing from a nursery.
“Officers believed it was the same boy and took him back to the nursery to be identified.
“We waited for his parents to arrive and he was collected by them.”
Officers filed an urgent report with Ofsted and spoke to staff about the incident.