THE 'heartbroken' parents of children abused by a nursery worker have condemned her 'soft' sentence.

The families of the children abused at Tiblands Nursery School in Whitbourne say Sarah Pitt should have been jailed for her 'disgusting' cruelty.

Instead, Pitt of Linton, Bromyard, was given two years in prison suspended for two years at Worcester Crown Court on Thursday.

Parents of the abused children want the nursery to be closed down and say an immediate custodial sentence would have sent a far stronger message.

They have also asked why the owner of the nursery, Patricia Garnish, did not attend the court's sentencing hearing and say they have yet to have any form of apology from Pitt.

Pitt, 40, admitted four counts of child cruelty at the nursery and three further counts will be allowed to lie on file.

Pitt had worked at the nursery for 17 years.

All of the children except one were under the age of three at the time of the abuse. She force-fed a girl yoghurt until she was sick, threw a blanket over another girl while holding her hand over her mouth, left a little boy to lie in his own urine for up to four hours to teach him 'a lesson' and pushed a child hard in her chest while she was sitting in her pushchair.

The father of two of the children abused spoke of feeling guilty about leaving them in Pitt’s care. His son now becomes very distressed if he gets wet after Pitt left him to lie in his own urine for up to four hours. Other children continue to suffer ongoing sleep problems as a result of the abuse they suffered at Pitt's hands.

The father said: “If we were told at the beginning what had happened we would never have sent them back there. I was expecting her to go to prison."

He criticised the focus of the court upon the impact on Pitt's son if she were jailed rather than the ongoing effects upon his own son and daughter.

The dad added: "I still feel my son is traumatised. I feel it is a lenient sentence for the judge, a father himself, to pass.”

The mother of two of the abused children said: “The sentence is too lenient. I think these offences are just the tip of the iceberg.”

She feels there was a risk her daughter could have been smothered when a blanket was thrown over her and a hand held over her mouth.

The woman said: "I feel both disgusted and angry. What normal person does something like that? She very much singled out my daughter and my son. It breaks my heart."

The mum also said she was disgusted that Pitt had blamed the death of her dad for her cruel acts.

She added: "It was just one excuse after another. We're heartbroken, numb. They are such loving children. It would have sent out a stronger message if she had been jailed.

"The judge mentioned her son but what about my son and daughter? The nursery seemed idyllic. I feel guilty that I got it wrong."

The mother of one of the children said: “The sentence was too soft. She had enough chance two years ago to change her behaviour when it was investigated."

She believes this type of abuse should be treated as seriously by the courts as other forms of abuse, including sexual abuse.

The original whistleblower who had been on a child care placement at the time said she had even been asked since ‘how could you do that to the nursery?’ after reporting Pitt’s behaviour. Her reply to them was: “Do what, try to protect children?”

She was the first to raise the alarm about Pitt's ‘bossy’ and ‘abrupt’ behaviour, reporting her to Ofsted and safeguarding bodies. The information was passed on to children’s services and the police.

Rather than being dismissed, the defendant was allowed to continue working and given extra training, a decision branded ‘mystifying’ by the judge who called Pitt ‘an appalling bully.’

Despite the training, further abuse followed and a second whistleblower raised the alarm.

The defendant was arrested on January 19, 2017 for offences stretching back over three years. Judge Jim Tindal said: “She will never work with children again.”

The judge, who paid tribute to both whistleblowers, saying he hoped the woman who initially reported the abuse would reconsider her decision to leave child care.

"She seems just the sort of person who should be working with children" said the judge.

He said one of the unanswered questions was why Pitt was allowed to continue to work at the nursery after the complaint was raised.

The judge told her: "The reality is that you brought your own problems to work. It's one thing if if you bring in your own problems if you work at an office.

"It's another if you work in a nursery."

In a letter to parents on September 21 the management of the nursery wrote: "I can reassure you that I followed every procedure and keep my staff and your children safe from harm."

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: "We are in ongoing discussions with the nursery provider about this serious matter, and will provide an update of the outcome in due course."