Does your child (or more than one children) enjoy after school activities? Extra tuition, a community or youth centre, sports club, faith group at a place of worship, or visiting a teacher’s home for ballet dancing or piano lessons, or the park with a sports or fitness coach?
Did you know many after-school places and activities are unregulated? There’s no overall legal framework for every out-of-school activity, and no official regulator. That means no single way to check if your children will be safe. Really, almost all of these clubs, sports sessions, private teachers and places are safe, fun and a great place for children of all ages to be. Of course as a parent or carer, you want to be reassured that your child is safe while they are not in your care. The new guidance helps make it easy to find where is good for your children.
Ask the right questions
The Government calls all these activities ‘out of school settings’ and for the first time ever have published national Guidance for Parents and Carers on Choosing Safe Out-of-School Settings. This includes questions parents and carers should ask to help choose safe places for your child to be outside school hours, ‘red flags’ that tell you ‘find another provider’, and the opposite – what positive signs of good places to look for.
What should you ask?
- Can you visit and talk to people there?
- Who’ll be in the room with your child?
- Is everyone DBS checked?
- Can they show reviews or comments from other parents saying this is good quality and safe?
- Does their internet filtering and monitoring protect children in chatrooms or online?
- Are there enough staff or volunteers to supervise all the children?
- Is there a consent form for you to sign, with your medical information and emergency contact details?
- Can you have a copy of their complaints procedure?
- Do you have questions about your child’s needs, such as needing a team member trained to work with special educational needs or disabilities. Ask!
- You can check (via the police) if someone who comes into contact with children has ever been convicted of a child sex offence under “Sarah’s Law”.
If they can’t, or don’t want to answer, it’s your right to choose something better for your child.
- They don’t seem to know about Health and Safety risks or keeping children safe.
- The place feels dangerous, eg loose wires, damp, no clear exit route.
- Staff/volunteers who can’t explain what they’d do in a fire or other emergency.
- No official first aider (and/or no first-aid kit).
- No named safeguarding lead.
- No child-protection policy (ie no clear steps for children to report things like one child in the group abusing another and how providers let parents know.
- Any signs of abuse on children, such as bruises.
Look for positive signs – the opposite of all these dangers. In most places you won’t see anything to worry about you.
- Find details of Guidance for Parents and Carers on Choosing Safe Out-of-School Settings and web links to useful resources
- Find the ‘Keeping Children Safe during Community Activities, After-School Clubs and Tuition’ parental guidance at uk.
- For more about out-of-school activities in Lambeth this summer see the summer of food and fun
- If you are worried about any provider or see any serious incident, you can report it to the NSPCC 0808 800 5000, Local authority designated officer (LADO) (find link) or the police.