YORK College has apologised for the death of three-year-old Lydia Bishop in its nursery, the day after being found guilty of failing to ensure children’s safety on its grounds.
College principal Alison Birkinshaw yesterday issued a written apology, saying the college was “acutely aware” of the pain Lydia’s family had faced.
Dr Birkinshaw: “We are deeply sorry about what happened and the impact this has had on everyone involved.”
The statement came after outbursts from parents angry at the way the college had closed the nursery after Lydia’s death, and the failure to apologise to staff and families affected.
Dr Birkinshaw said: “The decision to close the nursery was not taken lightly, and was based upon the discussions we had with the local authority, the police and Ofsted. This was a very difficult decision to make, and we know many parents felt that we didn’t give them the information they would have liked.
“However, as we explained at the time, we were not able to go into more detail as to the reasons behind our decision because the police investigation was ongoing.”
York mum Claire Gibb, who sent both her children to the college's nursery, has spoken of the grief she and other families feel for Lydia and the toll the trial has taken on them.
“For 17 months, we did not know what had happened. We weren’t told anything; we were kept in the dark by the college," she said.
Mrs Gibb said she and other parents had absolute faith in nursery staff including Sophee Redhead – the nursery worker who was tried and cleared of Lydia’s manslaughter. She has praised the staff, who she said went to great pains to get to know the children and cared deeply about their welfare.
“I want them to know their care for those children was never doubted by the parents. We know how good those nursery workers were, and I want them to know how sorry we are that they have missed out on seeing our children grow up.
“I am so relieved that Sophee has been cleared. At least another life has not been ruined. I hope she can put this behind her and start to move on. I think the fact she has stayed so dignified throughout is amazing. I don’t know where she’s found the strength.”
Mrs Gibb said she was still angry with the college, and believed they owed parents and staff an apology.
“What makes me the most angry is that could have been any one of our children. My heart still goes out to Lydia’s family. I still think about them at times like Christmas, and my son’s first day at school. That family should have had all those moments, but they were stolen from them.”
Dr Birkinshaw rejected claims the college had tried to blame Miss Redhead for the tragedy.
She said: “It is important to recognise that the college had no part in the decision to prosecute Sophee Redhead, which was solely a matter for the police and the CPS.”
She added: “We did our best to work closely with the local authority to help find alternative nursery childcare quickly in order to try and minimise disruption and uncertainty for parents and children. We also did our best to support nursery staff throughout this difficult time.”