Tokoroa learning centre staff fired for safety breaches

Last updated 05:00 29/05/2013

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Two staff at a Tokoroa-based early learning centre have been dismissed following an investigation into child safety breaches.

The Waikato Times reported last month on the investigation into Te Rau Oriwa Early Learning Centre, where up to 50 children from 3 months to 6 years old attend.

The investigation was launched in February after allegations of child safety breaches were made.

It is understood the allegations involved one child having their mouth washed out with soap, another being force fed and one child being locked in a cupboard for a few seconds.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa (TWoA), the governing body of the centre, conducted the investigation with some aspects still ongoing.

TWoA spokesperson Turi Ngatai confirmed that the two staff members allegedly involved had been dismissed.

"Two staff have been dismissed for breaches of childcare regulations and our policies following a thorough and robust investigation."

The Times has learnt that the staff members stood down are Mere Ngapo and her daughter Ripeka Ngapo, who both declined to make any comment when contacted yesterday.

Mr Ngatai said that the investigation into breaches of childcare and TWoA policies was ongoing, with the priority being on the health and well-being of tamariki and staff. However, the investigation into allegations against two staff members had concluded "following a thorough and robust process".

It is understood a third person might yet be stood down. Mr Ngatai would not be drawn on that matter but said: "There are aspects of our investigation which are ongoing.

"We are very disappointed and sorry at what has occurred. As a result we have engaged a comprehensive review of the centre and our services to ensure this cannot happen again. Te Rau Oriwa is an essential part of the community we serve and will continue to provide the high-quality service that our parents, caregivers and tamariki have come to expect."

Detective Senior Sergeant Graham Perks said police had not been asked to provide any additional assistance to Child, Youth and Family or the Ministry of Education (MoE) on the matter and to date had not received any criminal complaints. "Police will not be involved further at this stage but would be available to assist CYF and MoE should the need arise."

The Times understands that the Teachers Council will be notified, which is a mandatory requirement of the process.

This could see the two staff members stripped of their teaching qualification.

Ministry of Education Early Childhood Education group manager Karl Le Quesne said the national body was still monitoring the centre.

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"The ministry works with early childhood services to ensure all children are kept safe and secure. It is continuing to visit the centre every three weeks and we are satisfied that the children there are safe."

- Waikato Times

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