A playgroup has been rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted in a damning report in which inspectors claimed child safeguarding and staff recruitment procedures were not being followed.

However, concerns have been raised by a local councillor as to the accuracy of the report.

Crossways Playgroup, based at the village hall, was inspected by the education watchdog on April 25.

The inspector, Victoria Nicolson, wrote in her report that the effectiveness of leadership and management was inadequate: "Safeguarding is not effective. Leaders have failed to identify weaknesses that put children at risk.

"The manager has not followed robust recruitment procedures and has not ensured staff's suitability to work with children.

"New staff are not given an induction to inform them of the procedures to follow. They are not aware of what to do if they have concerns about a child's welfare, or who they should inform if they have concerns about the conduct of a member of staff.

"The manager and safeguarding lead do not follow the correct procedures to monitor and refer safeguarding concerns."

The 'personal development, behaviour and welfare' section of the report also branded the school 'inadequate': "Weaknesses in leadership, staff recruitment and safeguarding mean that children's welfare is at risk."

The playgroup is run by a committee and receives funding to provide free early years education for children aged two, three and four years.

Nick Ireland, Crossways councillor at Dorset Council, said: "Both myself and the playgroup disagree with the report.

"Everyone was shocked and upset because the playgroup has been working with Early Years and the council to make sure it did pass."

In June 2017, Crossways Playgroup was rated as 'requires improvement' by Ofsted. Cllr Ireland said this led to the playgroup working with the council and its Early Years and Childcare Service.

In May 2018, the playgroup was again rated by Ofsted as 'requires improvement' but, since the group has been working with Early Years for the past year, it was expected it would pass.

However, this was not the case. The latest report stated: "Although the manager and staff are working with outside agencies to improve the quality of provision, this work has not had the impact needed and standards have slipped further."

Cllr Ireland said: "Local people are really angry about the report and are now worried about what it might mean.

"It is a valuable resource much needed for the area and the playgroup has appealed the decision, but Ofsted still publishes its report and the council may have to withdraw funding because of the decision.

"Without the funding from Early Years, the playgroup could close."

Crossways Playgroup declined to comment.

Cllr Andrew Parry, Cabinet member for Children, Education and Early Help, said: “If a nursery, pre-school or childminder is judged as inadequate by Ofsted, we will review their early years funding (which offers free childcare to parents of 2, 3 & 4-year-olds).

"This in line with national guidelines and all local providers have signed an agreement which outlines the policy on this.

"We’ve not made a decision about the Crossways Playgroup funding yet, but will do within the next week or so.

“Our advisors have been working with the playgroup to try and help them improve and we’ll continue to support them.

"Our Family Information Service can also advise parents about local childcare - including their nearest providers, Ofsted ratings and the different funding options available."

Call 01305 221066 or got to dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/childcare for more information.