Nursery accused of favouring "white-sounding names" ordered to take action

3 November 2021, 18:35

A formal complaint was made by Humza Yousaf and his wife Nadia El-Nakla after their daughter Amal failed to get a place at Little Scholars Day Nursery
A formal complaint was made by Humza Yousaf and his wife Nadia El-Nakla after their daughter Amal failed to get a place at Little Scholars Day Nursery. Picture: Alamy/ Google

By Megan Hinton

A nursery accused of favouring children with "white-sounding names" has been forced to introduce new measures after a complaint from the Scottish Health Secretary was upheld.

A formal complaint was made by Humza Yousaf and his wife Nadia El-Nakla after their daughter Amal failed to get a place at Little Scholars Day Nursery, Dundee.

Mr Yousaf claimed the nursey rejected their daughters application due to lack of space but two days later, a white friend of the couple was told there was space for her son on three afternoons every week.

The nursery has denied the accusations branding them as "demonstrably false" claiming they have caused "enormous and unnecessary stress".

But an investigation by the Care Inspectorate found the nursery "did not promote fairness, equality and respect when offering placements".

Now Little Scholars Day Nursery has been ordered to introduce measures so applications "are processed in a transparent and equitable manner" and to prove it is "being well led and managed" by December 12.

The nursery has also been told to show that "communication with prospective families is improved to demonstrate that applicants are treated in a courteous and respectful manner", according to the ruling.

After initial concerns were raised by Mr Yousaf, the Daily Record undertook an investigation, submitting two identical applications to the nursery under two different names, Aqsa Akhtar and Susan Blake.

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The newspaper claimed Susan Blake’s application was approved whilst Aqsa Akhtar's application was rejected. A Care Inspectorate spokesman said: "We have upheld a complaint in relation to this matter. We found that the service did not promote fairness, equality and respect when offering placements.

"Every child in Scotland has the right to good quality care that meets their needs and respects their rights.

"We have identified areas for improvement and we will follow up on these to check on progress.

"We continue to monitor this service. If we are not satisfied that the improvements required have been met, we will not hesitate to take further action."

Mr Yousaf and Ms El-Nakla's lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said the couple "feel vindicated" by the decision to uphold the complaint.

He added: "They are first and foremost loving parents who would do anything to protect their children.

"Humza and Nadia were left deeply upset when they believed their young daughter Amal was being discriminated against and that is why they took action.

"They are no different to any other parent in Scotland and simply wanted their daughter to be given equal and fair access to opportunity regardless of her race or religion."

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A spokeswoman for Little Scholars argued the Care Inspectorate statement was "extremely suspicious and highly misleading" and claimed the report did not include "findings of discrimination or any issues with a lack of equality".

She said the nursery will ask lawyers to seek answers about the "inaccurate statement", but added: "As a small family business, we're always looking at ways we can improve things.

"While the Care Inspectorate found our admission procedure could be improved, this had nothing to do with discrimination or equality and within a few days of becoming aware of Mr Yousaf and Ms El-Nakla's complaint, we reviewed and updated our system for dealing with admissions.

"We never had the slightest doubt that the complaint against our manager's character and integrity would be rejected.

"She is a long-standing and highly valued member of our team, and it's been hugely upsetting to see her face such unfair and untrue allegations.

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"I'm sure we could have quickly resolved this issue if we had been approached directly rather than using the national media, which has caused enormous and unnecessary stress to our team and our families.

"We are grateful for the overwhelming support of our parents and the local community.

"Although not mentioned in the final report, over 40 letters of support were sent to the Care Inspectorate by parents and families who know and value how we care for their children, as well as countless emails and phone calls.

"It's been very humbling to see how much they wanted to show their support and we simply can't thank them enough.

"We had hoped to draw a line under this whole episode and get back to doing what we love - looking after children."