Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we enter our early years career; perhaps we are inspired by our love for babysitting our cousins or neighbours children. Perhaps we had an introductory to childcare session in high school that we loved. Maybe we have seen our parents, or family members carve a career they love in early years. Whatever the reason might be, it is unlikely that it was inspired by the somewhat mammoth task of safeguarding faced by leaders throughout the sector. It is of course true to say that whatever your early experiences, safeguarding may well have played a part. You may have witnessed peers in school suffering neglect, or perhaps heard the evidence of a neighbours domestic violence through the walls. However, the magnitude of safeguarding an entire Early Years setting, children, staff and visitors along with the complexities of cultural impacts, reporting and risk assessing probably didn't get you excited when you made the decision to work with children! Throw in a pandemic, where parents are under financial pressure, children's routines are dramatically changed and support networks are broken, and suddenly the safeguarding landscape is changed. This blog looks at all aspects of safeguarding in the Early Years and will form an introduction to the support and training interventions that will follow throughout the month.
Safeguarding.......Who? What? When? How?
'Working Together to Safeguard Children' (2018) defines safeguarding as;
Protecting children from maltreatment
Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
Ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes
Now, there are some sub headings which need further explanation! Although safeguarding children is, of course, the main objective here, the controls and assessments on the building and the environment, the training and understanding of your staff teams and the continued professional development of yourself all sits within this and impacts on the effectiveness of safeguarding within your setting. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that the usual safeguarding functions we rely on to protect children and young people have been reduced during the pandemic, putting even more pressure on the sector to act quickly and professionally.
The truth is, our responsibility to safeguarding impacts everything we do in the Early Years. From the second we open the nursery, sign ourselves in and do our risk assessments first thing in the morning, to ensuring safe recruitment practices and requesting that reference for what feels like the 18th time! With such an enormous responsibility we must have a strong foundation and scaffold in order to build processes and procedures that can be trusted not to fall over in a storm.
With every setting being slightly different the scaffolding required will always take on a different shape but the end result, for any leader, is the solid structure that is created.
Building this has to be done collaboratively and with training and development in place to keep all those involved up to date, knowledgeable and active in their responsibilities.
So we have established that a strong foundation and scaffold will support us in having a solid approach to safeguarding. Next we must consider the pillars that hold this up internally and how we maintain these pillars to ensure they remain steadfast under pressure. The Pillars are;
Your commitment to your CPD and your ability to critically reflect, evaluate and implement necessary change is essential in developing an up to date and relevant safeguarding strategy. A head buried in sand in relation to any safeguarding issues is inexcusable. Your safeguarding bundle this month will help you establish these habits.
The ongoing development of your teams knowledge will strengthen your safeguarding approach 10 fold. Your team are the ones who, day after day are best positioned to observe children and the environment and their professionalism and confidence in protocol is vital for the proper reporting and interventions to take place. Check out the podcast this month and our staff training ideas to help develop your team.
A safe environment for your children, staff and visitors sets the standard for how you approach safeguarding. The pride you take in the environments and the suitability for the differing age ranges, the care you take to make people feel welcome and the security of your entrance and perimeter are all essential for this pillar and set a standard of commitment to keeping children safe that is evident to those that visit or work in your setting right from when they set foot inside.
Safeguarding should be embedded culturally into our setting. We discuss this with our expert in this months podcast. Threading safeguarding related content, processes and procedures into everyday routines and making sure that safeguarding is an inclusive responsibility for everybody. Check out this months managers training for more guidance here.
An awareness of the community in which you work is essential. Knowing the community culture, the current issues facing your community and the impacts on a community can aid you in understanding the pressures on the families who use your setting. Check out the manager training and podcast for more information on this.
Feeling confident in your setting approach, process and procedures is essential in leading safeguarding within your setting. However, safeguarding is much more than a form or a policy. Its embedded within your environment, your team, your activities. It's linking with your community, understanding their needs. It's working together with external agencies in order to support children and families for the best possible outcomes.
The resources that follow this month will not only help to build your knowledge and confidence in safeguarding, but help you to reflect on any changes you may need to make in terms of safeguarding during a pandemic.