Shocked parents have been forced to find alternative childcare after Ofsted closed a pre-school owned by a shamed businesswoman.

Marie Elizabeth Staniforth, who owns Acorns Pre-School in Cleator Moor, was sent to prison last week after being found guilty of neglecting her dog.

On Monday, the education watchdog Ofsted suspended the pre-school's registration and parents were contacted to say it would be closing later that day.

This meant parents had just hours to find alternative settings for their children, and nurseries and childminders in the area worked to meet demand.

An Ofsted spokesman said: "We have suspended the registration of this pre-school because the owner is in prison.

"This means that there is no-one with the legal responsibility to run the setting.

"We are working with the pre-school to see if the company can nominate a suitable person to take charge."

An official notice from Ofsted has now been placed in the doorway of the pre-school on the Leconfield Industrial Estate.

It says that the suspension runs until November 14, to allow Ofsted time to investigate its "belief that a child may be exposed to risk of harm and for any necessary steps to be taken to eliminate or reduce the risk of harm."

It goes on to say that situation will be reviewed regularly and the suspension would be stopped if Ofsted believes children are "no longer at risk."

A parent at Acorns said they were told on Monday afternoon that the pre-school would be closed the next day.

"We couldn't believe it," she said. "Luckily there was somebody available to look after our little one on the Tuesday, but some parents were left completely in the lurch.

"It's such a shame as the girls who work at Acorns were amazing. We've managed to find a nearby nursery."

Marie Staniforth, 32, of Gatesyde Place, Eskdale Green, Holmrook, denied the charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

However, West Cumbria magistrates found her guilty and gave her a 126-day sentence and banned her from keeping an animal for life.

The pre-school opened in 2011 and at its last Ofsted inspection in December, it was rated as being good. At the time, it had 52 children on roll and employed nine members of staff.

The News & Star was unable to get in touch with anybody from the nursery.