Pair of five-year-old girls locked in pitch black church crypt for two hours, mother claims

Telegraph Reporters
 St Paul's Church in York - Google Streetview

Staff left two five-year-old girls locked in a pitch black church crypt for two hours while they went off to watch a film, a mother has told an Ofsted investigation.

The mother claims her daughter went with another five-year-old girl to the toilet under St Paul's Church in York,  just as staff were preparing to take all the children to the cinema.

Staff of the St Paul's Out of School Club failed to carry out another headcount and did not realise the children were missing.

They locked the door to the crypt with the two pupils still inside before switching off the light, it is claimed.

It was only when the film ended that the children were found to be missing and the school party went back from the Reel Cinema to find them in the crypt.

The mother said her daughter had been frightened and traumatised by her experiences during the February half -term holiday club. Ofsted is investigating the incident.

"When I took my daughter home I realised she wasn't coming round - she was still really withdrawn and quiet," she said.

Concerned at the impact it was having on her daughter, she has since taken her to see their GP, who had now referred her to Lime Trees, York's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.

The little girl now struggles to leave her parents to go into school, her parents said, is afraid of being left alone and won't go to any other childcare.

She is even scared at the end of the school day when she sees other children being gathered to go to out of school club.

"She's scared of going to out of school club again, she has to sleep with the light on, and she has lost confidence at school.

"I own my own business and work from home. This is affecting us a lot because I can't work when I have my daughter at home with me," her mother added.

According to her daughter, the two little girls had made a den in a corner and cuddled together, but she had been scared and cried for her parents while they alone.

The mother said that since the incident, she understood the woman in charge of the children that day had subsequently resigned.

Ofsted has confirmed it is aware of the incident, but could not comment on ongoing investigations.

A spokesman added: "We take all concerns seriously and consider them as quickly as possible."

However, the mother said she she has not yet been reassured that such a failure would not happen again.

Promises to keep her and other parents informed have not been kept, she said, and she fears the club and York Childcare are trying to brush it under the carpet.

She said: "The club had told Ofsted we were being kept informed, but I explained I was feeling very uneasy - as if they weren't taking it seriously. If they're not taking it seriously, it could happen again."

Nor did she feel York Childcare had treated her well since the incident, claiming it had initially failed to come clean as to what had happened that day.

She added: "To begin with we never would have dreamt of taking this further or going to the press, but they have been horrendous."

According to York Childcare website, the charity manages several out of school clubs around the city.

Holgate ward councillor Fiona Derbyshire said: "This has got to be the subject of an investigation. If these claims are correct, it's horrifying and my heart goes out to the parents of the children involved."

St Paul's Out of School Club is listed on its website, which says the club is managed by a voluntary management committee, consisting of York Childcare representatives.

Jo Armistead, chairman of trustees, said: “York Childcare has a business relationship with St Paul’s Out of School Club but is not involved in the day to day running of the club, so therefore we cannot make a comment.”

A spokesperson from St Paul's Out of School Club later said: "We take our safeguarding responsibilities very seriously indeed and continue to take the advice of Ofsted with whom we are working during its investigation. Given that its investigation and our own are not yet concluded we're unable to comment further."

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