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Keeping Children Safe in Out-of-School Settings

Keeping Children Safe in Out-of-School Settings

Safeguarding goes beyond the classroom environment. All groups and out-of-school settings (OOSS) have a duty of care to look after the children they come into contact with, no matter the location or purpose of the interaction. In this blog we provide insights and highlight the importance of keeping children safe in out-of-school settings. 

Including everything from sports groups and Scouts clubs to after-school childcare or extra-curricular activity groups, OOSS provide extremely valuable and enriching opportunities for children outside of the classroom. However, in its Oversight of Out-Of-School Settings report, the Department of Education declared there to be significant potential for safeguarding harm in these environments, with some children found to be in “immediate danger” from unsafe premises, unchecked staff, and inappropriate practices. 

In a demonstration of the importance of OOSS safeguarding, Sport England recently announced it will be investing £15m towards a safeguarding network, aimed at “protecting children and young people across sport”. The network will be made up of 59 safeguarding and welfare officers based across the country, tasked with promoting safe practices in sport settings and working with various out of school clubs to protect children’s welfare. Tim Hollinsworth, chief executive of Sport England, has called it the biggest intervention into welfare, safeguarding, and integrity…[with] the potential to be game-changing for the way that local clubs and community groups feel they’re supported around safeguarding.” 

Currently, OOSS are not required to notify councils about their provisions, and they remain unregulated by education and childcare law. This means that there is a higher risk of incidents surrounding children falling through the gaps in these environments, which can lead to failures in escalating concerns and missed opportunities for crucial intervention when needed. It is vital that these provisions are able to work together with local authorities, schools and other agencies to keep children safe and monitor any safeguarding concerns effectively. 

The role OOSS play in safeguarding children  

Providers of activities, after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings all have a responsibility to protect the children in their care and, by law, must take steps to keep them safe from harm. This includes identifying any issues or concerns, reporting them if necessary, understanding the specific needs and circumstances of children in their care, and taking appropriate action to reduce the risk of harm. OOSS therefore have a responsibility to log and report any safeguarding concerns about the children they in their charge and take measures to ensure that vulnerable children receive the support they need to stay safe.  

The Department of Education’s statutory guidance on working together to safeguard children recommends a co-ordinated approach to safeguarding, where organisations, agencies and practitioners work together to provide a collaborative, child-centred approach to safeguarding. Whilst children might spend less time in OOSS than they do in a school classroom, the sharing of information between settings, as well as with other agencies, is vital to provide a full picture of each child’s circumstances and identify patterns or changes in behaviour that could indicate potential safeguarding concerns. 

It’s therefore crucial that OOSS not only have clear safeguarding policies in place to carry out their duty of protecting children effectively, but that they are able to record, share, and report important information with external agencies when necessary to ensure the best outcomes for children at risk of harm.  

Joining the dots between OOSS and authorities 

Although safeguarding is important across all settings, there are specific challenges when it comes to OOSS that make the implementation of clear safeguarding policies and procedures across the sector all the more urgent.  

In its report, the Department of Education raised concerns about the risks of neglect, abuse, and radicalisation taking place in OOSS, highlighting the potential harm that could come from children falling through the gaps. These findings act as a stark reminder of the importance that safeguarding carries, and the need for fast and effective intervention when concerns are raised, to prevent issues from escalating.  

To ensure that issues and opportunities to offer support aren’t missed, OOSS need tools and systems in place to record and share important information with other agencies, so that they can provide and contribute to a joined-up safeguarding approach that is tailored to each child’s specific needs.  

Following the Department of Education’s findings, Abigail Gill, the associate head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, highlighted that children should be able to enjoy extra-curricular activities with the same degree of safety as they have in school or childcare settings, stating: “The government must now work with local authorities to give them the powers and resources to ensure out-of-school settings meet safeguarding standards. Improving information sharing between educational and law enforcement agencies and local government would be a critical first step in identifying safeguarding risks to children and preventing future abuse.” 

Safeguarding software that prioritises clear and easy information sharing can help provide Local Authorities, OOSS, schools and other agencies with the power and tools to effectively protect children, identify concerns and take early interventions to reduce the risks of harm.  

Safeguarding solutions that meet out-of-school settings needs 

In recent years, CPOMS has worked firsthand with leading sports clubs and OOSS to achieve consistency in their safeguarding practices. This includes Huddersfield Town Football Club, which operates an Academy for elite players, a community program, matchday operations that involve members of the public, and other key operational fronts that include multiple members of staff. Recording welfare information across such a vast organisation can often prove challenging, but working with CPOMS has enabled Huddersfield Town to ensure a level of consistency across its safeguarding practices. 

Head of Safeguarding, Karen Crosland, recently shared her thoughts on how CPOMS can support safeguarding in OOSS: “CPOMS has allowed us to record incidents and identify trends ensuring we provide timely and appropriate interventions whilst maintaining the required levels of confidentiality. The ability to quickly share information through the system has strengthened the effectiveness of our reporting procedures and gives us a comprehensive timeline of events, which provides evidence for meetings and audits and can easily and securely be shared with our partners if required. All in all it is a very comprehensive system, and I cannot recommend it highly enough, the customer service and training are both excellent and the system itself is quite intuitive to use.” 

For more information about how CPOMS software solutions can help you meet your safeguarding needs, request a demo today.  

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