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LETTER OF THE WEEK: Staff share blame

Every time I hear about Little Ted's nursery in Plymouth I am filled with emotion. Some of this is sadness for the children and parents who are still going through this dreadful, heartbreaking nightmare, and my heart goes out to them. I also feel very angry, even more so after reading some of the information following the serious case review into Vanessa George's abuse (Analysis, 18 November).

I have read that staff at the nursery had some concerns about George's behaviour but felt unable to challenge her because they believed her to be in a 'position of power'. In my opinion this is totally unacceptable. Anyone who is working with children should have the common sense to do everything possible to protect the children in their care, with or without any training. So even if George was in a position of power, the staff who had concerns about her should have acted on them. This could have prevented the abuse of some of those children.

I am talking as the deputy manager of a private day nursery. I know that the nursery practitioners here, even trainee staff members, would do all they could to safeguard children.

Yes, I do agree that Vanessa George is ultimately responsible for her actions of abuse, but in my opinion, staff members who had concerns about her but did nothing must be held accountable in some way.

Paula Hunt, Leicester

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Comments in the blogs on the Nursery World website, following the news story '"Noisy" setting facing 10ft wall threat' (28 October) clearly reflect the emotion stirred up when it appears officials are trying to take action against the exploits of young children, their learning, enjoyment and play. However, it is important to recognise that intervention to minimise the noise from nurseries may be necessary. While the sound of children at play may be pleasant, it is also the case that long-term exposure to noise from shouts, screams and play equipment may be distracting and a potential nuisance.

The personal response to noise depends on many physical and psychological factors. Annoyance with a sound may arise when it becomes unwanted and is deemed to be noise, and this may not be simply due to its overall level in decibels. The judgement of what might be acceptable levels of noise for reasonable individuals to tolerate, in the amenity areas of their property, cannot be generalised. It depends on the existing expectations for the noise environment prior to development and also on issues such as the duration, regularity, characteristic and relative level of the noise.

From my discussions with residents, it is not uncommon for noise disturbance to arise from nursery play areas. In some cases people reluctantly accept disturbance without making official complaints, because children are involved. This highlights the need for good planning decisions to protect the rights of reasonable individuals living as neighbours to these developments.

The general issues of noise impact arising from children's use of a nursery and its associated play area should be considered in a similar way to the noise impact that might arise from any commercial enterprise seeking planning approval. Unfortunately there is no official planning guidance I am aware of that provides advice on the methods to use to determine a suitable location for a play area or assess the potential for neighbour disturbance.

In an attempt to quantify the potential sources of noise impact from nursery developments, I have undertaken noise measurement of play areas and the specific noise arising from ride-on toys. Knowledge of the potential impact provides a basis to pursue requirements for any changes to design that might help minimise the noise level arising from play areas and avoid inappropriate development locations. Building orientation and play area layout can help avoid problems. Consideration of the play surface type for ride-on equipment, the type and orientation of fixed play equipment, the use of decked areas and any use of external amplified music may also be important.

Mike Highfield, principal scientist - acoustics, Somerset Scientific Services, Somerset County Council

Send your letters to ... The Editor, Nursery World, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP, letter.nw@haymarket.com, 020 8267 8401.

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