‘Young children are vulnerable. They develop resilience when their physical and psychological well-being is protected by adults’ (EYFS card 1.3)
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. The EYFS framework supports an integrated approach to early learning and care. It gives all professionals a set of common principles and commitments to deliver quality early education and childcare experiences to all children and gives parents reassurance that regardless of where they choose for their child’s early education, they can be assured that the same statutory commitments and principles will underpin their child’s learning and development experience. The statutory framework has three sections.
- The learning and development requirements
- The safeguarding and welfare requirements
Child protection and safeguarding children is of paramount importance in early years settings. All members of staff must be suitable and providers are required to carry out enhanced criminal record checks on any individual working directly with the children. The EYFS Framework requires all settings provide a policy and have procedures in place to safeguard children. Practitioners are required to be alert to any concerns about a child. All staff in the setting should be trained to recognise the signs of abuse. These may include:
- Significant changes in children’s behaviour
- Deterioration in children’s well- being
- Unexplained bruising, marks or signs of possible abuse or neglect
- Children’s comments which give cause for concern
- Any reason’s to suspect neglect or abuse outside the setting, for example in the child’s home
- Inappropriate behaviour displayed by other members of staff, or any other person working with the children. For example: inappropriate sexual comments, excessive one to one attention beyond the requirements of their usual role and responsibilities, or inappropriate sharing of images. Good.
All settings are required to have a designated staff member to take the lead responsibility for safeguarding children, known as Safeguarding of Children Co-ordinator (SOCCO) who will complete a course on safeguarding children. For children who need additional help, every day matters. Research is consistent in underlining the damage to children from delaying intervention.
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined as protecting children from maltreatment, preventing impairment of children's health or development, ensuring that children grow-up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care and taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes. The actions taken by professionals to meet the needs of these children as early as possible can be critical to their future. (Department for Education-Working to Safeguard Children)
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The statutory requirements promote the safeguarding and welfare of all children when they are healthy, safe and secure and when their individual needs are being met. A positive relationship with adults caring for the children is vital. Settings should be welcoming, safe, secure and stimulating. Providers must take all necessary steps to keep children safe and well from safeguarding, suitability of adults in contact with the children, promoting good health, managing behaviour and maintaining policies and procedures. All early years settings are required to have at least one member of staff present at all times who holds a full Paediatric First Aid qualification. The 1st aid boxes must be fully stocked to administer treatment for minor injuries following guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive Website. The setting must have a procedure in place for recording accidents and incidents either by an accident form or accident book. Food and drinks provided in the setting must be healthy, balanced and nutritious. Before the children start in the setting providers must establish any special dietary needs. Tables used for meal times must be disinfected before and after meal time. Children wash their hands before eating. Providers are responsible for dealing with behaviour in an appropriate way, under no circumstances must practitioners threaten or give any corporate punishment to the children, behaviour should be dealt with calmly and fairly in all circumstances so that we are not having an adverse effect on the child’s well-being. During outings children must be kept safe, providers must assess the risks or hazards which may arise and identify steps to be taken to remove, minimise and manage those risks and hazards. If children are travelling in a vehicle the driver must be adequately insured. (Statutory framework for the early years foundation) Good.
The obvious starting point of keeping children safe in the setting is to ensure that basic principles are being followed. No matter how good the security of a building is, the doors must be closed properly at all times, otherwise all other efforts are likely to be worthless. The message that safety begins
with individuals taking responsibility for simple things cannot be overemphasised. A safe environment must meet its registration requirements; there are two registers, the Early Years Register (EYR) and the Ofsted Childcare Register (OCR). Settings which provide day care for children under five have to be registered on the EYR. Meeting registration requirements means that a setting will be complying with the law and legislation, but providing and maintaining a safe environment requires a greater understanding from everybody involved. A safe environment starts with the child and will include: The physical environment - the actual building in which care is provided indoor and outdoor areas where children learn, play and develop must be accessible for users whilst maintaining levels of security that keep children safe and protected from harm. The people - those providing care are “suitable” persons (as defined in the EYFS Welfare Requirements) and others who have contact with the children and premises are appropriate to do so. Equipment - play equipment and care equipment which is fit for purpose, appropriate for the needs of individual children and meets the guidelines for British and European standards. The emotional environment – which enables children to grow, develop and reach their full potential, with opportunities to explore and take appropriate risks, enabling children to try out new skills and increase their knowledge and understanding of the world around them, through experiences which are both planned and unplanned. Documentation - policies and procedures and records that support all of the above which have clearly set out duties, responsibilities and actions. Good. When working with young children who are vulnerable, the challenges for creating and managing a safe environment are different again. Practitioners must work closely with a child’s parents to address aspects which may not be covered in a risk assessment, but still need to be considered for an individual child’s well-being.
The environment is just one aspect of keeping children safe and protected. If practitioners identify a child who is vulnerable or in need of protection, action must then be taken using policies and procedures already in place and tools such as the Common Assessment Framework.
Parents’ awareness of the setting’s policies and procedures for safeguarding children promote confidence about safety and this will be reflected in their child’s experiences. All settings must be aware of the procedures for dealing with concerns about a child’s welfare. Although there is a big emphasis on keeping children safe in early year’s settings and where practitioners try to minimise risks, children need and instinctively want to be able to take risks in order that they can test their abilities and strengths. There’s no better environment for them to do so than that of an early years setting where practitioners will already have removed hazards not readily identifiable to young children and will provide well managed opportunities for appropriate ‘risk taking’ to take place. Children need support to take some risks as part of their learning and development. Children with disabilities do not always have the freedom of choice compared to their more able peers, yet have the same need for opportunities to take risks. It is the responsibility of early year’s practitioners to assess and manage the level of risk in the environment. Providers are required to conduct regular risk assessments, which identify aspects of the environment that need to be checked on a regular basis. The process should then involve deciding what should be done to prevent harm, making sure that the relevant actions are taken and are updated whenever necessary. Early years settings should already have comprehensive health and safety risk assessments that inform their procedures and a competent person identified to be in charge of the implementation. Good point.
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All settings have a duty to minimise risk in all situations. When creating a safe environment for children, practitioners must consider their legal duty to identify and reduce/eliminate risks, with a balance of proportionate/acceptable risk. The risk of falling of slide is quite high, however the risk can be minimised by adult supervision and soft landing mats, turn taking rules etc. Children can indulge in their natural instincts of risk taking unaware that the risk has been assessed and minimised by the practitioner. The EYFS requirements ensure that essential standards of provision are in place. Providers are required to carry out regular risk assessments, which identify aspects of the environment that need to be checked on a regular basis. The assessment should then involve deciding what can be done to prevent harm ensuring actions are taken and updated whenever necessary. Health and safety law does not expect all risk to be eliminated but that ‘reasonable precautions’ are taken and that staff are trained and aware of their responsibilities, thus creating an environment that enables children to grow and develop being able to take risks through physically challenging play. Early years settings should already have comprehensive health and safety risk assessments that inform their procedures and a competent person identified to be in charge of the implementation. Staff in all settings regardless of their level should be involved in reviewing these, as they are the ones with the first- hand knowledge as to whether they are effective and can give an informed view to help update procedures. Parental involvement should also be welcomed, they should be aware of their responsibilities, such as closing gates behind them and being aware of strangers entering the building and being encouraged to make staff aware. The basis of effective risk management is that everybody is involved and can therefore take responsibility for their, and others safety. Risk assessments such as security of the building, fire safety, food safety, bathroom hygiene and nappy changing, and personal safety of staff should already exist. What we are doing with the children during the session also requires a risk assessment such as a cooking activity or an outing.
Risk assessments are necessary when making reasonable adjustments for disabled children/children with additional needs. Minor accidents being recorded would also require action. Whatever the reason for the risk assessment, the process remains the same.
Risk assessment processes identify five steps that we need to take:
- Identification of risk or hazard – where it is and what it is?
- Decide who is at risk and how – childcare staff, children and parents
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions – can we get rid of the risk altogether, if not how can we control it?
- Record our findings and implement them – prioritise, make an action plan if necessary.
- Monitoring and review – how do we know if what has been decided is working, or is it thorough enough? If it is not working, it will need to be amended, or maybe there’s a better solution.
Safety sweeps are another way of assessing risks, we often do these in our setting either first thing or at the end of the session. Our safety sweeps aren’t recorded unless we identify a risk that needs assessing.
It is also helpful for members of staff at all levels to be familiar with the key legal requirements that affect their day to day practice and know where to access updates and further information.
My essay has been written using information on the web and from the following books.
- Working together to safeguard children Department for Education 21 March 2013
- Preschool learning alliance
- Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage March 2014
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