Four North Devon nurseries have been closed by Ofsted over ‘safeguarding issues’.

Hundreds of parents were left shocked when the chain of Claire’s Childrens Nurseries suddenly closed its doors on March 22.

The nurseries affected are: Claire’s Flying Start, Claire’s Little Bears, and Claire’s Newport Nursery in Barnstaple, and Claire’s Little Robins in Northam.

It came after Ofsted received a complaint over safeguarding and suspended the nurseries’ registrations temporarily.

But after further review, Ofsted has now decided to cancel the registrations and the nurseries will remain shut.

It is understood more than 400 children will be affected by the closures.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we have issued a notice of intent to cancel the provider’s registration.

“This is because we are not satisfied that the provider remains suitable for registration or that they are able to take sufficient steps to ensure they sustain compliance with the requirements of registration.”

Claire’s Childrens Nurseries has 14 days to object to Ofsted’s notice of intention to cancel the registration.

If no objection is made, Ofsted will issue a notice of its decision and the nurseries’ provider will have 28 days to appeal.

A letter from Ofsted was sent to parents this week. The letter, seen by the Gazette, said: “We have completed our investigation and have decided to take steps to cancel the registration.

“This is because we are not satisfied that the provider remains suitable now that she is able to meet and sustain compliance with the requirements of registration.

“The suspension will remain in place while we take steps to cancel the registration.”

But many parents have been left scratching their heads as to why the nurseries have closed.

James Chapple, from Barnstaple, has had to find alternative childcare for his two-year-old son Ernie, who attended Claire’s Flying Start in Barnstaple.

He said: “All we have heard is gossip on social media. It’s heartbreaking to drive past and hear Ernie say ‘I miss my friends’ when he sees the empty building, as the nursery really helped to develop his social skills.

“I know several people who worked at the nurseries, who have bills to pay, and families to support, but they are now without work.”

Another parent, who wished not to be named, said her two children attended Claire’s Flying Start after school.

She said: “I have no childcare now, for my two children who attended after-school clubs.”

Parent Daniel Dalley said he had struggled to find alternative childcare for his two boys.

“It came as a huge disappointment to find out that the nursery was closing,” he said.

“We received a random call two weeks ago informing us that we needed to collect the boys immediately as Claire’s Ofsted registration has been cancelled.

“We have struggled greatly to find a replacement nursery that they boys can go to full time that also accept a portion of the government funding.

“Most of the nurseries only have limited hours on the week.”

An initial complaint was made to Ofsted on February 13, and after Ofsted completed a further visit of March 19, they found welfare requirements had not been met.

These included implementing a policy over mobile phone use, making staff aware of a designated safeguarding lead, and implementing a ‘robust’ safeguarding policy.

This policy was to include ‘clear whistleblowing procedures that relate to allegations of inappropriate behaviour and comments made by staff’.

Was your child at one of Claire’s Nurseries? Have you been able to find alternative childcare? Contact the newsdesk on newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk