A NURSERY school owner who left a three-year-old girl strapped inside a car for more than five hours after 'completely forgetting' about her, has been struck off the childminder's register.

Carol Cort, aged 67, of Blacksmith Lane, Beckford, was giving the little girl a lift to the Barn Nursery School, in Bourton, as a favour for her mother.

When she arrived at the nursery early on February 18 last year, she automatically picked up her handbag, locked the car and went to work and left the toddler, referred to as "E", strapped into her car seat.

Mrs Cort, who had worked in child care for 46 years, went back to her car at 3pm and drove to an after-school club to pick up other children before realising what she had done.

By that time E had been trapped in the car for over five hours, without food, water or toilet facilities.

The Care Standards Tribunal heard Mrs Cort "found the child sitting exactly as she had been when her mother strapped her in."

Judge Meleri Tudur said: "Initially, she didn't realise what had happened, assuming the child had been placed in the wrong vehicle by a member of staff.

"Only when the child told her that she had been forgotten did she realise that she had been there all day".

E had been away from the nursery the previous week, suffering from chicken pox, so her absence went unnoticed.

Her mother had phoned the nursery at the end of the day to ask after her - but thought a member of staff was 'joking' when he said he hadn't seen her.

Mrs Cort drove straight to E's parents' home in a 'very distressed' state and immediately confessed all.

The mother said tearful Mrs Cort was in shock and told her: "I've done something awful. I've ruined the nursery and let everybody down. I've ruined it for the children".

Ravaged by guilt, a "very distressed" Mrs Cort offered E a free place at the nursery. But the mother later withdrew her daughter from the Barn and reported the matter to the local authority.

The nursery owner, who was on the verge of retirement and handing over the business to her daughter, was immediately suspended by Ofsted.

Her lawyers told Judge Tudur she was under severe strain due to concerns over her mother's care in a nursing home and presented psychiatric evidence that she was depressed at the time.

They pointed out that, since the incident, Mrs Cort's daughter had put in place a rigorous regime of checking vehicles in the nursery's car park to ensure that no children had been left inside.

What happened was a "one-off and inadvertant absent-minded mistake", described as "an aberration" by her legal team.

However, Judge Tudur said the incident was so grave that Mrs Cort's registration as a childminder had to be cancelled.

It was only by "good luck and chance" that E had not come to serious harm.

Although she had made an immediate confession to E's mother after driving her home, Mrs Cort had not told even her own family about the incident - and more importantly had not reported the incident to Ofsted herself.

Despite Mrs Cort's long and unblemished history as a child carer, Judge Tudur concluded: "The incident and the surrounding issues identified are sufficient to merit the cancellation of Mrs Cort's registration".