Prosecution for approved provider, fine for nominated supervisor after serious incident
An early childhood education and care (ECEC) approved provider has been prosecuted in New South Wales for one offence under section 165(1) of the Children (Education and Care Services) National Law (NSW); and one offence under section 167(1) of the Children (Education and Care Services) National Law (NSW).
The nominated supervisor for the service was also convicted at Sydney Downing Centre Local Court and fined a total of $8,000 in relation to the November 2019 incident, which saw a child aged 16 months become entangled in ribbons hanging from a cubby house, sustaining ligature marks to their neck, and becoming unresponsive.
The approved provider was sentenced at Waverley Local Court to a Conditional Release Order (‘CRO’) without conviction. The CRO was made on the condition of good behaviour for a period of 18 months. The sentence was confirmed on 17 August 2021, following a leniency appeal to Sydney Downing Centre District Court.
On the day of the incident, the child was signed in to the 118-place service at approximately 8 am. The Service operates over three levels with various rooms on each floor separated by age groups.
On the ground floor of the facility there are two rooms for children aged between birth to two years of age. These rooms are called the ‘Discoverers’ room and ‘Junior Discoverers’ room. The Discoverers and Junior Discoverers rooms are joined, with shared cot and nappy rooms with glass windows and a shared kitchenette.
The play area of the Discoverers room is a simulated outdoor space which contains a cubby house. In early 2019, long pieces of fabric (“ribbons”) were attached to one of the beams of the cubby house. Later in the year, in September or October 2019, toys were also attached to the bottom of the ribbons to enhance the children’s sensory experience.
The child at the centre of the incident was enrolled in the Discoverers Room. At 9:30am, the children had morning tea in the Discoverers Room, before moving to the simulated outdoor space at some point between 9:45am and 10:00am.
A short while later, a single educator was left to care for between six and nine children in the simulated outdoor area. At the time, a group of three children were playing directly in front of the educator and three children (one of which was the 16-month-old child) were approximately three metres away, playing at the front of the cubby house. The educator was singing to the children in front of her.
After approximately two minutes, the educator looked towards the cubby house and saw one child seated out the front and one child playing amongst the ribbons. Approximately 15 seconds later, the educator noticed that the child seated at the front of the cubby house had stopped laughing and had turned to look at her. The educator then noticed that the 16-month-old child’s feet were limp, that she was not supporting her body weight and that her head was hanging forward.
The educator called out to the child, who did not respond. The educator approached the child and noticed that the child had a ribbon with a triangular wooden toy at the end wrapped around her neck. The educator took approximately 30 seconds to remove the ribbon from the child’s neck. Although the educator called for assistance, no other educator came to her aid.
Emergency services were called and the child was transported to hospital where she was noted to have been suffering from ‘stridor’ and to have ligature marks around her throat. The child was treated in hospital for three days and appears to have made a full recovery.
In relation to the incident, it was found that the approved provider:
- failed to ensure children being educated and cared for by the service were adequately supervised at all times in that:
o the child was not actively supervised whilst playing at the cubby house;
o the period of time that the child was not actively supervised was sufficient in duration for a ribbon to become wrapped around the child’s neck; and,
o no educators noticed that a ribbon had become wrapped around the child’s neck until she became limp and unresponsive;
- failed to take every reasonable precaution to protection children being educated and cared for by the service from harm and from any hazard likely to cause injury in that it failed to:
o conduct a risk assessment in relation to the ribbons;
o remove the ribbons from the play area;
o ensure adequate supervision of the children playing with the ribbons; and,
o provide educators with adequate training as to appropriate supervision and child safety.
Full details of the incident are available here.
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