Ministry probes escape from preschool

Katrina Casey A formal complaint has been laid against a Dunedin preschool after a 2-year-old left undetected.

Vicky Preston told the Otago Daily Times she had taken the action against Punavai o le Atamai Pre-School yesterday morning after son Regan Preston (2) left the preschool undetected by staff on Monday.

The preschool is under investigation by the Ministry of Education after the incident.

While Mrs Preston had still not forgiven the preschool's staff, the matter was now with the ministry, she said.

''I just hope that they sort it out and that all the kids are going to be watched and accounted for,'' Mrs Preston said.

''If they can fix the problem, I don't see any need for it [the preschool] to be shut down.''

She was told by ministry staff that a ''full investigation'' was under way and it could take ''a while because they want to do a proper investigation''.

Regan crossed Macandrew Rd and walked down the street to a Veggie Boys store, about 100m away, before he was found by a passing stranger.

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey confirmed it was investigating the incident and the preschool's licence was being reviewed.

She had met Mrs Preston and the ''information the parents provided is assisting our ongoing investigation'', Ms Casey said.

The investigation found the most likely way the child left the preschool was by ''walking through the outer gate, which may not have shut properly due to a worn hinge spring'', she said.

''Following the incident we were advised by Punavai o le Atamai that they had identified a faulty closing mechanism on the gate, which meant it did not automatically shut and had to be shut manually; this was confirmed by ministry staff who visited the service.

''An urgent repair was carried out to ensure the automatic closing mechanism is working correctly.''

Mrs Preston said a staff member from the preschool had tried to contact her on Wednesday, but she was not yet ready to speak to them.

''I find it hard to forgive [them] when I think about it and how my little man could have been taken away from me,'' she said.

timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

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