Prompted largely by the illiterate ravings of someone imaginatively calling themselves "Anon" in the Grumpy Guest Book, we return to the case of the saintly Olive Rack who was recently cleared of common assault when disciplining a child at the nursery she runs. This excellent article appeared in the Telegraph a couple of weeks ago …
by Philip Johnston
For more than a year, Olive Rack lived with the threat of seeing her business ruined - even of losing her liberty - because she diligently carried out her job as a nursery teacher.
Earlier this week, she was cleared of assaulting a toddler in her care and said she wanted to get on with her job running a successful independent school in Kettering, Northants. Magistrates said there was ''no convincing evidence" to sustain the charge. In which case, why had it been brought? These things do not just drop out of the sky. There is a lengthy chain of responsibility here that blighted Mrs Rack's life for 15 months. Are any of those involved in it to be held responsible?
Let us start with the two nursery advisers from the county council's Children and Young People's Service (where on earth did that come from?), who appear, on a generous interpretation, to have given a somewhat fanciful account of the way the child was treated and failed to place it in the context of which they must have been aware.
They said the teacher had ''dragged" the two-year-old girl across the classroom before ''roughly" placing her in a chair and tapping her twice on the forehead with her finger. One official said the child's "feet virtually didn't touch the floor", something Mrs Rack denied. But the circumstances were important. The toddler had just smashed a baby on the head with a toy brick and was having a tantrum. Mrs Rack, with almost 40 years' experience behind her, dealt with the matter firmly and professionally. Not even the girl's mother complained and continued, indeed, to send her children to the nursery, so confident was she in their safety.
Even though this was an everyday occurrence to which normal people would not have given a second thought, it may well be the case that one, or both, of the inspectors felt the treatment was a bit rough. They were entitled to have said so at the time, even though Mrs Rack had far more experience than they in dealing with such circumstances. One of the inspectors cuddled the girl in what can only have been a gratuitously deliberate attempt to undermine the teacher's position.
In a sane world, that is where the matter would have rested. But sanity went out the window long ago, along with common sense, judgment and decency. A month later, Mrs Rack was contacted by Ofsted, the inspectors who have blighted the lives of nursery owners up and down the land with their nitpicking requirements and pointless form-filling. They told her that a complaint had been made, not by the girl's mother, but by the inspectors.
Enter the next link in the chain, the police. Mrs Rack was arrested, her biometrics taken to be stored on the national criminal DNA database, and questioned about the alleged "assault". You might have thought that, at this stage, a senior police officer might have thought this had gone far enough and apologised to Mrs Rack for wasting her time. But, probably egged on by social services, they put up prima facie evidence of a crime to the local branch of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Here, surely, the chain would break and a sharp-eyed lawyer would inject the basic gumption that had been sorely missing so far. Let's face it, there are enough serious crimes that go unpunished because the CPS believes there is no case to answer or they do not consider there is a 50 per cent or greater chance of a conviction, the benchmark for launching a prosecution.
Yet, in the case of Mrs Rack - where it is questionable that a crime had even been committed, let alone any evidence of one - they ploughed on and charged her with an offence that carried a six-month jail sentence. Why? What is driving all these elements - council jobsworths, social workers, police, prosecutors - to pursue a case that they must know is threadbare at best and positively malicious at worst.
To begin with, there is an animus in government, both local and national, against independent nurseries. They want them all to be state-controlled, as is clear from the way in which ministers are making their lives increasingly difficult by the continual interference that is driving them out of business in their thousands.
But there is another reason. It is because Mrs Rack and the many others like her who have been dragged into court are easy prey. They do not go on the run, they aren't hard to find, they won't put up violent resistance or claim the protection of human rights laws. They will get angry and frustrated and bemused at the unfair treatment being meted out. But who cares about them?
They are the law-abiding majority, the suckers who pay the salaries of the unholy army of public sector nonentities who have nothing better to do than make the life of a decent woman a misery. Even Cherie Blair experienced the breath of this madness on her cheek when she was questioned by the police for allegedly assaulting a boy who made a rabbit-ears gesture above her head as they posed for a photograph. If she had not been the Prime Minister's wife, who is to say she would not have ended up in the dock?
In Mrs Rack's case, the council defended its action by saying the inspectors "had a duty to raise any concerns that may arise through their visits", even though the mother thought it had been blown out of all proportion. Leaving aside whether the incident even merited a report, it was not then incumbent on every other element in the criminal justice chain to hound her all the way to court.
Each did so because it feared getting it in the neck from someone elsewhere in the chain if it didn't. Nobody had the courage to put a stop to the nonsense. If they were all following guidelines, then these should be changed.
As Mrs Rack says, the prosecution seemed to imply that children could not be touched at all; in which case, how could a nursery worker change a nappy? Someone in the police or prosecutor's office should be held to account for the ordeal endured by Mrs Rack and others. Until and unless someone is, there will be no end to this lunacy.
And the GOS was particularly impressed by this perceptive comment from a Telegraph reader: "Of course this case is a farce and a waste of time, money and effort. Of course these bodies are a waste of money (as is the "child protection in sport unit that complained about Cherie Booth a couple of weeks ago), but bear just one thing in mind.
Every single rule that exists is created in response to a problem or failing. I'm not making excuses for this type of behaviour by authorities and agencies but remember that a lot of the time it is public outrage and a clamour for "something to be done" that leads to these new rules and bodies being established.
Every time a child dies or is found to have suffered in some way, the fine members of our press trot out all the usual "demands"; "The Sun demands our children are protected", "The Daily Mail insists that never again shall this outrage be allowed" and so on.
Rules are made to try to legislate against such freak occurences (whether freak accidents or abuse by a carer or whatever), and then forgotten about while the nation moves on to a new outrage or scandal. Then when the rules impact on someone acting in good faith, the outrage is directed back at the very rules that were clamoured for previously.
When the first Christmas stories of kids not being allowed to sit on Santa's knee emerge and ask yourself the question: Is it because of PC right on do-gooders or because of scare mongering by the tabloids that every stranger is a potential paedophile?"
… and by this comment too …
"The prosecution should read the Education Act 1996 s.548, and the local authority guidelines on restraint of children. Mrs Rack was not just able to intervene; she was arguably obliged to intervene to secure the safety of the other child. Had she failed to she could have been liable for injury to the baby and that would rightly have endangered her licence."
Click here and read all the other comments - a whole slew of them, without exception showing that (a) plenty of people apart from The GOS are fed up to the back teeth with the modern interventionist society, (b) some incredibly grumpy people read the Telegraph, and (c) those who get so fed up with Britain that they sell up and live abroad spend most of their days reading and writing to English newspapers.
The GOS says: Nursery inspections, like school inspections, are the responsibility of Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education). You will no doubt be amazed and horrified to hear that The GOS is a qualified Ofsted Inspector, though of schools rather than nurseries. He gained this qualification about fifteen years ago, and immediately decided never to carry out an inspection because the training was enough to convince him that it was nothing to do with education or good teaching, and everything to do with ticking boxes labelled "accountability", "political correctness" and "saving the backs of those in authority".
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