Nurseries, as with all care and education settings, can be hugely important in the development of a child. As a result, it’s vital that they are places where children are safe and healthy.
Safeguarding is a set of actions undertaken by those responsible for children in order to ensure this, and if you work in a nursery with babies and young children you are required to uphold a range of safeguarding practices to keep everyone safe. In this article, we’re going to look in more detail at what safeguarding means, who it applies to, and how it works in practice in the nursery.
The UK government provides guidance on what it expects safeguarding to mean, and in the Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 document, they present four points that define the initiative. They are the following:
There are also two main pieces of legislation that detail the legal duties that come under safeguarding. They are the Children Act 1989 and Children Act 2004, which you can read more about on the GOV.UK website.
Ultimately, safeguarding is about making sure that children are well looked after when they are not at home, and it has a fairly broad remit. Most elements of safeguarding would be considered completely normal parts of the nursery environment, but the government mandates safeguarding as an initiative to ensure that all bases are covered.
Safeguarding in a nursery involves all staff being vetted for their suitability for working with children before they start the job, along with all staff regularly undertaking safeguarding training to stay up to date on the latest guidance and advice. As well as upholding the key aims of safeguarding listed above, nursery staff are also responsible for using their frequent interaction with young children to spot early signs of abuse, exploitation or neglect and take action as quickly as possible to protect the victim.
Safeguarding policies are relevant to all members of staff within a nursery. Everyone has a responsibility to the safety and wellbeing of the children in their care, no matter how frequently you interact with them or the level of care you provide.
Sound policies and procedures for safeguarding in a nursery should ensure that everyone knows their role, but it is also important to note that Ofsted now requires that there is a Lead Safeguarding Practitioner on the premises at all times when a nursery is open. This has changed from previous rules that simply required there to be a Lead Safeguarding Practitioner employed by the nursery.
It’s the job of this person, who may also be referred to as the nursery’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL), to make sure that safeguarding policies are in place and being followed. They’re usually the first port of call for other members of staff that have a safeguarding concern and have the highest level of safeguarding training in the nursery.
Anyone that works with children in a nursery has a significant safeguarding responsibility however, whether they’re the Lead Safeguarding Practitioner or not. In taking on a role as a nursery practitioner, you take responsibility for protecting the children in your care, as well as other duties of the job.
The practice of implementing and upholding safeguarding policies and procedures in a nursery covers a range of different topics, all of which work together to create a safe environment for babies and young children to be cared for. Below are some of the key ways that safeguarding is put into practice in a nursery environment.
A safeguarding policy in a nursery should be put in place to help ensure that all of the criteria of safeguarding are met. This policy is an official statement of the nursery acknowledging their safeguarding responsibility and outlining how they are going to enact it through official procedures and established systems.
There will also be details of the nursery’s designated safeguarding leads and how they will respond to safeguarding concerns with the help of local services.
Following safer recruitment guidelines is one of the clearest examples of safeguarding in action. It involves conducting rigorous checks on any job candidates before they are considered or permitted to work in the nursery to ensure that they are suitable for a role working with children and have been vetted by personal references and external sources.
A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is the main element of safer recruitment, which seeks to ensure that candidates are suitable to work with children. By ensuring all staff pass a DBS check and being thorough with vetting during recruitment, nurseries remain safe places where young children can safely be left in the care of staff.
Protecting children from abuse, whether this is from their caregivers, other children or other adults, is the most important part of safeguarding. At its basic level, this will involve things like ensuring that only those who should be there are present on the premises and that children are picked up by the correct person. It will also mean maintaining vigilance and following the correct procedure if home abuse is suspected.
Nursery practitioners should be aware of the signs of different types of abuse and how these might present in young children. They should also be aware of the factors that may indicate that a child and their family would benefit from early help and intervention to ensure that abuse, neglect or mistreatment doesn’t occur in the future.
An example of what this might involve in a nursery setting is accident and injury forms that are filled out if a child is injured at nursery or that a parent fills out if a child has been injured at home and sustained a cut, scrape or bump. If staff notice a regular pattern of injury and a high number of forms, they would be prompted to further investigate the child’s safety.
Speaking of injuries, another way in which safeguarding is practised in a nursery is by ensuring that a nursery environment is a safe place for young children and babies. Whether you’re playing outside with the children or doing arts and crafts, they need to be in a safe environment, so nurseries must ensure that children are not placed in situations where there is a high likelihood of injury.
As we already touched on, any accidents or injuries that happen in a nursery must be recorded and the parents of the injured child contacted right away. It’s important to have a record of accidents for legal purposes and to notify parents so that they don’t question the safety of their child in a nursery’s care.
When children get older, the care and protection they receive from school and extracurricular clubs focus on enrichment and education as opposed to care, but in a nursery setting, young children are much more reliant on staff to meet their basic needs. Some nurseries care for babies or young children with limited speech capacity who may also not be able to feed themselves or move around independently, requiring much more attentive care.
For this research, children’s health is a focus of safeguarding procedures in a nursery, despite being a less commonly recognised form of safeguarding. In practice, this will involve a wide range of considerations, from making sure that children are given healthy food to eat, to facilitating their medication needs and keeping up with any vaccination requirements.
It will also involve keeping children clean, changing their nappies or helping them visit the bathroom, and encouraging and teaching them good hygiene practices like washing their hands.
Along with maintaining and promoting good physical health of the young children in your care, mental health is also important in the development of a child, including at nursery age. Bullying should be prevented, and children encouraged to be happy and make the most of their time at the nursery. This helps to promote good health and educational outcomes, as well as laying a solid foundation for positive mental health as the children grow up.
In order for a nursery to comply fully with its safeguarding duties, and ensure that children are being looked after to the best of the nursery’s ability, it is paramount that all members of staff receive adequate training for safeguarding children in nursery.
Safeguarding training should be delivered at least once every two years and is often given or organised by a nursery’s designated safeguarding lead. This training needs to be regularly refreshed so that staff are up to date on the latest safeguarding guidelines and don’t forget anything important, like signs of abuse or who to report safeguarding concerns to in a nursery.
If you have a safeguarding concern to do with a child, parent or members of staff you have encountered at a nursery, the first thing you should do is report the concern to your designated safeguarding lead. This member of staff is qualified to handle safeguarding policy and procedures for the nursery and will be able to advise on further investigation or contact relevant local services.
If you believed that a child was in imminent danger, you could also report a safeguarding concern directly to the police or your local child protection services.
A nursery safeguarding policy should include a statement about the nursery’s commitment to safeguarding and explain the measures in place and the steps that staff will take to uphold these commitments. It will also detail the reporting policy used by staff in the nursery and explain the training offered to staff and what this covers
A safeguarding lead in a nursery is responsible for managing any safeguarding concerns connected to the establishment and keeping secure records of all of these. Their role also includes responsibility for working alongside local child protection services to provide necessary support and intervention in safeguarding cases, as well as organising or delivering training and safeguarding updates to other nursery staff.
Nursery practitioners may have a harder job than other safeguarding professionals in their role, as the children that they care for may not have the language skills or vocabulary to express themselves and share details of any mistreatment that is taking place. Therefore, safeguarding in a nursery setting is even more important through things like being aware of the signs of abuse and recognising cases where early help is needed, as this will help to protect young and vulnerable children and ensure that safeguarding responsibilities are being carried out.
If you’re an early years practitioner looking for safeguarding training to help develop your skills and knowledge, we offer a range of different online safeguarding courses, many of which are CPD certified, covering everything from basic child safeguarding to specific early years topics.