Last month, we were privileged to welcome Yvonne Sinclair to the Parenta family when she gave us the benefit of her incredible safeguarding knowledge and took us through crucial statutory information during our monthly webinar. If you missed it, you can watch it here.

Safeguarding is not just about protecting children from deliberate harm and neglect. It encompasses broader aspects of care and education to provide a safe environment for children to learn and develop. For this to happen, a culture of vigilance, welfare and appropriate safeguarding actions must be promoted, along with the fulfilment of statutory requirements and best practice, all the while exercising professional judgement in keeping children safe. Underpinning this is the need for correct and appropriate recruitment procedures and checks. We must ensure that those given responsibility to look after children within early years settings are suitable to effectively carry out their roles.

A whole-setting safe culture approach

As outlined in Keeping children safe in education 2021 (KCSIE): “It is vital that governing bodies and proprietors create a culture that safeguards and promotes the welfare of children. As part of this culture, it is important that they adopt robust recruitment procedures that deter and prevent people who are unsuitable to work with children from applying for or securing employment, or volunteering opportunities in schools.”

A whole-setting safe culture approach is fundamental to ensure everyone – regardless of their role and level – understands what it means to keep children safe. This includes ensuring vigorous steps are consistently taken to prevent, identify and reject unsuitable individuals throughout each stage of the recruitment process. Crucially, this also extends to those recruited via third parties and agencies.

To ensure a whole-setting safe culture approach, early years settings must have effective:

  • Child protection arrangements
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Code of conduct
  • Whistle blowing
  • Safer working practices
  • Induction and supervision
  • Staff training to understand their responsibilities towards keeping children safe

Serious case review failures and learnings

One example of serious failings, where learnings around recruitment and a whole-setting safe approach were developed, is the review of ‘Nursery Z’ (2010). Exposed failures included inadequate:

  • Professional, reflective practice
  • Whole-setting approach
  • Professional code of conduct
  • Assumptions in suitability and competence
  • Policies and procedures
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Training

As the nursery’s management and staff had not been appropriately trained in safeguarding, robust recruitment practices were not adhered to. This, combined with the other failings listed, meant unsuitable adults were allowed access to children and a culture of abuse towards them was made possible.

Recruitment checks for early years settings

Employers should ensure that employees understand that they are expected to disclose convictions, cautions, court orders, reprimands, and warnings which may have happened before and/or during employment. Furthermore, the following checks should be carried out as a minimum by early years settings and in line with the Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (EYFS) and KCSIE.

  • Criminal record and barred list (including volunteers)
  • Checks on people from overseas
  • Qualifications
  • Identity checks
  • Right to work
  • Appropriate references
  • Disqualification under Childcare Act 2006

All schools are required to have regard to the government’s KCSIE statutory guidance. However, other childcare providers e.g. non-schools, may also find it helpful to refer to part 3 of the guidance, which details the recruitment and selection process, pre-appointment and vetting checks, and ongoing legal reporting duties.

In addition, the following should be recorded by early years settings. Ofsted inspectors will check that the provider can produce evidence of the suitability of all relevant staff and adults.

  • Staff qualifications
  • Identity checks
  • Vetting process has been completed (including reference number, date a check was obtained and details of who obtained it)
  • Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
  • First aid
  • Mandatory induction
  • Effective supervision (including support, coaching, and training)

Child protection is at the forefront of ensuring settings are carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It underpins relevant aspects of process and policy development as identified in Ofsted’s Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education and Skills to promote a safer culture for children.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA)

This act was designed to give people with a criminal history a clean slate, as once an offence is spent, the offender is not required to inform potential employers. After a number of updates, with the latest being on 28th November 2020, the latest changes cover new responsibilities and requirements towards potential employees, along with changes to recruitment documentation. This includes:

  • Knowing what they are required to disclose when applying for a role
  • Understanding their disclosure rights and responsibilities
  • Having access to publicly available guidance and support from professional advisors

Staff induction

The daily experience of children in early years settings and the overall quality of provision depends on all practitioners promoting the interest of the child and fostering a culture of support and teamwork. They must also have the following:

  • Appropriate qualifications
  • Understanding of safeguarding and child protection responsibilities
  • Training, skills, and knowledge
  • Emergency evacuation and health and safety procedures
  • Effective supervision and support

It is imperative that employers support staff to undertake appropriate training and give them access to professional development opportunities. This goes a long way to ensuring staff offer quality and continually improving learning and development exercises for children.

Providers must also put appropriate arrangements in place for the supervision of staff who have contact with children and families. Effective supervision provides support that encourages the confidential discussion of sensitive issues.

Having read this article, you may wish to consider your priorities and what needs to change to ensure safe recruitment in your early years setting to prevent children being failed by those given responsibility to care for them.

Key documents

  • KCSIE (2021)
  • EYFS (2021)
  • Staffing and Employment Advice for Schools (2021)
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children (2020)
  • Ofsted Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education and Skills (2021)
  • DBS Filtering Guide 2020

About the author:

Yvonne Sinclair is an award-winning Independent Safeguarding Consultant, Trainer and Presenter specialising in the education and early years sectors and the founder of Safeguarding Support Limited. Yvonne has a wealth of safeguarding and child protection experience, having developed the role of National Safeguarding Officer for a national children’s charity. In that role she was responsible for leading on and developing safeguarding compliance, policy, and training.

2015 saw Yvonne moving to an become independent, supporting educational providers and early years settings with all aspects of their safeguarding requirements to ensure organisational confidence of safeguarding compliance. Yvonne is AET qualified, trained in child protection by the NSPCC, an accredited trainer to deliver Safer Recruitment by the Safer Recruitment Consortium, a member of the Association of Child Protection Professionals (formerly BASPCAN), Child Protection in Education (CAPE) and National Association of Designated Safeguard Leads (NADSL).

Yvonne’s aim is to ensure that ‘safeguarding is simplified’. Find out more about Yvonne, her team and the support services they offer at www.safeguardingsupport.com.

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