Toddler group suspended after runaway tot incident

Clair Armstrong and son Lee Wilson who attends the Little Rascals Nursery
Clair Armstrong and son Lee Wilson who attends the Little Rascals Nursery
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A TODDLER group has been suspended after a two-year-old boy managed to run out into the road.

The Little Rascals group used to meet at St Matthew’s Church Hall, in Front Street, Newbottle, which had a revamp earlier this year.

Reverend Eddy Wilkinson outside St Matthews Church Hall, Front Street,, Newbottle.

Reverend Eddy Wilkinson outside St Matthews Church Hall, Front Street,, Newbottle.

As part of that, a bolt was left off an inside door for fire safety reasons and a wooden board fitted to stop children getting out.

But toddler Lee Wilson managed to run out into the main road as his mum picked him up.

Claire Armstrong, 25, from Newbottle, said she felt “sick” when the two-year-old ran out.

Reverend Edward Wilkinson apologised over the scare and has stopped the sessions at the church hall.

Mick Clark (front left) of the Russell Foster Football Centre, who stepped to save the Little Rascals Christmas party after being told they could not use their original venue due to health and safety concerns. Group Leader Denise Eden (front right)

Mick Clark (front left) of the Russell Foster Football Centre, who stepped to save the Little Rascals Christmas party after being told they could not use their original venue due to health and safety concerns. Group Leader Denise Eden (front right)

Mum Claire said: “The group leader had already had a word with the reverend to say the doors were unsafe.

“I was so scared when Lee ran off. He just went through the doors and I couldn’t catch him.”

Toddler group leader Denise Eden, 55, added: “I understand that the vicar wanted the church hall to be modernised.

“But when there are young children involved, safeguarding must be a priority.

“I told them that not having a bolt was a safety issue, but they said it was a fire hazard.

“They put a wooden board in place across the inside door instead, but that must also have been a fire hazard, by the time you got it off in a fire.”

Rev Wilkinson said: “When the renovations were completed we were told by the fire officer that we could not put a bolt on the new inside door because it would be a safety hazard, so we had the wooden board fitted so young children would not be able to get over it and get out.

“The mother whose child got out was holding the door open to let a buggy into the room when he got out.

“Obviously, we are sorry that this happened, and we do understand the concerns of the group, but as a senior colleague said to me the other day, it is a church hall, not a children’s centre.

“I have suspended the group until we can find a solution for everyone, and I have been in touch with the fire service to see if there is another solution, and we are considering all organisations in our solution.”

The group also nearly missed out on their Christmas party, which was due to be held at the church hall.

But bosses at the Russell Foster Centre, in nearby Stadon Way, stepped in and offered one of their community rooms.

Denise said Little Rascals would be held there from now on every Tuesday and Thursday.

Denise said: “I would like to thank the Russell Forster Football Centre for stepping in. They could have easily said no to us.”

Twitter: @Monica_Turnbull