Nursery staff had known for years youngsters could play out of sight on a slide where a child died, a jury heard.
Liz Radford, manager at York College Nursery, claimed she never saw anything that concerned her during her safety inspections of the slide where Lydia Bishop, three, died after becoming tangled up in a 16-metre rope onthe slide on September 17, 2012. Mrs Radford also said that York College’s health and safety advisor did not visit the nursery to carry out a health and safety audit, but sent questions for staff to answer by email.
He visited once a month for other reasons, she claimed. The jury at Leeds Crown Court heard the audit gave the nursery an “outstanding” grade.
She claimed that to her knowledge, the advisor was not aware of the way ropes were used at the nursery or of the use of a sand trolley and bench placed across the path leading to the slide.
These were not intended to physically prevent children reaching the slide unsupervised, she said, but were a “visual sign” to show them the slide was “closed”, and all staff were aware children could get past it.
Mrs Radford said staff had been aware since 2007 that children could play on the slide out of sight from other parts of the play area and since 2007, staff had seen children walking round the bench and trolley to the slide. Mrs Radford told the court a training course had encouraged nurseries to have a “selection of ropes” for outdoor play, and the nursery had other shorter ropes.
The jury was shown risk assessment documents which stipulated that ropes should be tidied away after use and children should not play unsupervised on the slide.
“Were the control measures complied with?” asked Robert Smith QC for the prosecution.
“Not that I was aware of,” she replied.
Earlier Mrs Radford had said she relied on her deputies as her “eyes and ears” in the nursery and that it was “very important” to comply with the control measures.
Initially she told the jury she had never seen rope attached to the slide and would have told staff to put it away if she had.
However, she said she had seen a photograph displayed on the nursery walls in the summer of 2012 which appeared to show children playing on the slide, with a long rope lying on it with a loop in it.
She said she was not concerned about the photo because the children were being highly supervised at the time. Mrs Radford alleged the rope had come from a college store used by several departments including the nursery before it moved to its current building in Sim Balk Lane in 2007.
York College denies failure to ensure the safety of children at the nursery between August 1 and September 18, 2012.
Nursery employee Sophee Redhead, 25, of Wenham Road, Foxwood, denies manslaughter and a health and safety breach.
Mrs Radford joined York College nursery in 2001 and had teaching and administrative duties as well as managing the nursery.
She said she spent between six and seven hours a day at the nursery including in its office and would regularly go into the nursery.
In 2009 and 2010 she was seconded to Cherry Trees Nursery, York, to bring it up to standard after it was classed as “failing”. A letter from City of York Council commending her work there was read to the jury.
The trial continues.