I was recently reading The Growth of Love and in the introduction, the author, Keith White, shares an experience he had in Switzerland where he witnessed three kindergarten-aged children crossing the road on a crossing with no adult to be seen. This was a typical scene for rural Switzerland and does not highlight any shortcomings of the parents or the kindergarten in allowing such young children to walk home alone. However, within the UK, broadly speaking, this would be shocking and probably hit the headlines! White uses this experience to share the meaning of the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” The children felt safe, were completely at ease and safeguarding them was everyone’s responsibility.
I began thinking about how we can use this idea within our society. Sometimes our culture has become a little too paranoid when it comes to safeguarding children. Every stranger is considered a danger and all adults who glance at a child playing in the park are paedophiles. It is vitally important that safeguarding children is our highest priority and we must still use common sense and ensure that our policies and procedures aimed to keep children safe do not imprison them whilst in our care. We must still go on visits into our local community and ensure that we continue to invite other adults into our settings. We must trust other adults and avoid making assumptions, whilst carrying out the necessary checks and following sensible procedures.
Cornwall’s ‘I safeguard adults and children’ (Isaac) network came up with these top tips for strong safeguarding practice and procedure:
- Stay inquisitive
- Don’t make assumptions
- Trust the person making the alert in the first instance
- Clear open recording and communication
- Details are important – all information adds up
- Share information where you can
- Be prepared to follow up alert if not satisfied
- Feedback to staff that have made a safeguarding alert
- Safeguard by sharing best practice between employees
- Training and systems for clear reporting – day-to-day incidents/logs/positive & negative
- Open door policy – stay approachable
- Make information available to visitors, families and staff, e.g. safety posters / what to do if you’re worried about a child and who to raise concerns with
- Clear whistleblowing policies and procedures
- If in doubt – ASK!
I want to draw your attention to number 2: don’t make assumptions. It is easy to assume the worst about people, however, it is vital that if we want to get back to communities where people know each other that trust is re-established within our society. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility – that includes staff, parents, families, visitors to your setting and members of the public who are unrelated to your setting!
We may never live in a society which equals the levels of trust demonstrated in the village in Switzerland, and this may feel impossible in a large city or town, but we can ensure that our little corner of the world is fully part of the community. We can attend local events, walk to the post box, visit the market, visit the allotments, read books at the library and allow our children to see beyond the four walls of our setting. We can invite the local imam, priest, or minister to visit us, we can invite emergency service personnel to talk to the children or simply a local grandparent to read stories to our group of children.
We need to get the balance right – safeguarding children without wrapping them in cotton wool or allowing them to live in a bubble away from the local community. If we are successful, our children will value belonging to the local community and they will become part of the future village that will raise their own children.
About the author
Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.
Tamsin’s book, Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children, was released in July 2017.