A BALLINGRY nursery has come under fire after a four-year-old boy was left alone for 40 minutes on a trip to The Scottish Deer Centre. 

Carson Morhulec was discovered by a member of staff at the centre after the nursery group left without him while he was in the toilets.

His mum, Clare Hodge, has now spoken out against the incident, which she said "just didn't make sense."

She told the Times: "They had their end-of-year trip on Friday, (June 21), and we were told not to return for them until half past 12. There were a few parents already sitting waiting and we were sat for a while when they then showed us into another room - which is typically a staff room.  

"We thought, ‘the afternoon [class] will be starting soon, they want us out the way’.

"At this point we were told the bus was delayed, we had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong.  

"Just before the bus arrived, the headteacher came in and said, ‘I just want to let you know that the reason the bus is late is because a child was unaccounted for but is now safe'.

"So at that point, I'm thinking, 'There’s been a miscount, they’ve had to count a few times just to make sure everybody was there, maybe someone has wandered away but they’ve had them, it’s just delayed the bus'.

"I didn’t quite comprehend what they were saying to me at that time."

But it was not a delayed headcount or a wandering child that held the bus back.

The bus was late because around 20 minutes into their drive back to the nursery, they received a call from the Deer Centre to say that they had come across one of the children who was supposed to be in their care. 

Carson and the rest of the group had been told to go to the toilet before they left the centre, and Carson was the last one to use the facilities and when he came back out, the eight other children and the three teachers supervising the trip were gone. 

The four-year-old told his mum that he looked for his class but when he couldn't find them he started to cry.

It was then that a man, who later turned out to be a member of staff at the centre, found him and took him to reception. 

At that point, the rest of the group were informed that they were missing a child and they turned back to collect him.

She said: "I could maybe have understood if it was a very large group, that he had wandered away, but they told him to go to the toilet. That was my issue, that they told him to go to the toilet. He’s been the last one to use it and when he’s come out, he couldn’t find them. 

"He said he thought they were hiding from him.”

Clare was asked to keep the incident off of social media and to use the weekend to reflect on the situation.

She was also assured that a full investigation would take place. 

After careful consideration, Clare decided that the best course of action for her, her family and the community would be to go public with the incident and warn other parents. 

She continued: "My perception of that is that they just didn’t want the scandal from it, they were fully aware of how wrong it was and how inexcusable it was because there were nine students on that trip, who were all similar ages, to three (members of) staff.

"The ratio just doesn’t make sense to me, as to how it actually happened. 

"They would have left it, I think, to the stage where we were standing there, they were getting off the bus and my son wasn’t there. I think that’s when they would have then realised.

"It was the Deer Centre that actually had to notify them."

Clare had a meeting with the nursery the following week to discuss the incident further.

She said: "When I spoke to the nursery on the Monday, I said, ‘Was there a risk assessment in place for this? Why were headcounts not done?’ They’ve said that a robust risk assessment was in place that identified how many headcounts should be done, how often and when.

"They said, and this was in their words, ‘They just didn’t bother.' Their staff just didn’t bother. 

"How do you identify where things went wrong when everything was in place and it just didn’t happen? How do we fix this?

"He’s not been the only one under Fife Council’s care that this has happened to, that’s really clear from previous media reports.

"What other risks to their safety are there? We’re not present in these establishments. As far as we’re aware they’re fully safe and fully cared for. That wasn’t the case for him on (that) Friday."

In the aftermath of the incident, Clare has been focused on ensuring that Carson moves on from this. 

She added: "The Friday night he was quite upset, he had a lot of questions about why he was left, why was he forgotten about.

"We just tried to reassure him that it’s been a mistake and it will never happen again.

"He seems alright with that but we just don't know if on future trips will there be anxiety surrounding that, how long will he remember this for?"

Shelagh McLean, Fife Council’s head of service, said: “First of all I’d like to apologise wholeheartedly to the child and their family for what happened on Friday (June 21).

"We are treating this incident extremely seriously and an investigation is underway into how this happened. As soon as the child was noted as missing immediate action was taken. The school was in contact with the child’s parents and the Care Inspectorate was notified immediately.

“We do have robust guidance and procedures in place for schools and nurseries regarding school trips. As part of this investigation, we will review these policies and procedures to see where any improvements can be made.

"As there are individuals involved who will be easily identifiable in the local community, even if not directly named, until the full details are clear and official proceedings are finalised, which would include any action taken by Care Inspectorate, we are not in a position to comment further on any specific action that will be taken."