INSPECTORS who visited a troubled nursery which lost its council funding in a row over inclusion have reported "significant improvements" in staff and the environment.

Pear Tree Nursery's branch on Haddington’s West Road was ordered to carry out changes after receiving the lowest grade possible for its care – unsatisfactory – following a visit in October last year.

At the time, inspectors said that they had to step in to ensure children were fed after a new meal proved unpopular with youngsters who were left hungry.

READ MORE: Inspectors had to feed hungry children at county nursery

The nursery was ordered to ensure “children continue to be offered sufficient food and they are offered enough drinking water to keep them hydrated” as one of a series of requirements.

However, when inspectors returned in December, things had not improved and they extended deadlines for the requirements, with inspectors saying that serious concerns about the nutritional welfare of youngsters remained after they witnessed children going hungry and one falling asleep at the table during mealtime.

READ MORE: Nursery staff ‘did not notice’ child asleep at lunch table

And they revealed that inspectors also recorded temperatures of 24 degrees in an "overcrowded" sleeping room which had no ventilation.

Their report said: “Too many children were in the sleep room, resulting in it feeling very cramped, and staff had to step on and over beds to reach children.”

Among issues facing the nursery – which is one of four in East Lothian owned by Bright Stars Nursery Group, which took over in June last year – were also concerns that staff were unable to take children out into the community because of a lack of training and used "labelling words" when telling them off.

However, the latest report following an unannounced visit last month found that requirements had been met and changes introduced.

It said: “Staff demonstrated improved practice, particularly in their nurturing approach. This had been achieved through training and staff from other Pear Tree settings being role models.

“Children were more comfortable and confident in approaching staff for support and guidance, which was an indication of the trusting relationships that had been developed.

“Children were offered sufficient food and water to keep them hydrated, ensuring their physical wellbeing was supported.

“With the exception of one age group of children, staff were now trained on how to keep children safe when outwith the nursery, and suitable pushchairs were available to support this.

“Staff reported that being able to get out of the setting had a positive impact on children and their own mental health and wellbeing.

“Plans to ensure remaining staff received the training were in place so that all children and staff could benefit from being able to go out in the local community.”

In September last year, East Lothian Council said it was not renewing its 1,140 free hours contract with Bright Star following concerns about its “overall approach to inclusion”.

READ MORE: Owners 'stunned and dismayed' as four nurseries to lose funding for 1,140 hours

The decision meant that the parents of 151 children who were receiving the free hours would have to find them at an alternative nursery or pay the fees.

A spokesperson for the group welcomed the latest report, saying: “We are pleased the Care Inspectorate has recognised our commitment and the dedication of the Pear Tree Nursery West Road team to meeting the children’s care and learning needs.

“Our ethos and passion is to maintain the unique culture, individuality and identity of each nursery we acquire and we are supporting the staff team at Pear Tree Nursery West Road, who are working closely with parents and their children to ensure continuous improvement.

“We have invested significantly in staff training and development, and in improving facilities and equipment since acquiring the nursery last June. We welcome the inspectors’ comments on the improvements to the nursery gardens and their observations that children were ‘happy, motivated and engaged’.

“We are proud of the way the staff team has responded enthusiastically to enhance the children’s play and learning experiences, to develop a more nurturing approach and improve communication with parents.

“The team will continue to focus on delivering the highest-quality care, which is tailored to meet the needs of families and the local community.”