A Guide to Safeguarding in EYFS

August 9, 2022 9:10 am
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Children thrive in safe and secure environments where they are able to confidently express themselves. Safeguarding procedures and policies in the EYFS are the most reliable way of ensuring that children are safe and secure.

If you work in early years setting it is incredibly important that you comply with safeguarding measures to ensure the wellbeing of the children in your setting. In fact, Working Together to Safeguard Children is a statutory document that EYFS professionals are required to read and understand.

What is ‘safeguarding’ in EYFS?

Safeguarding is defined as ‘to protect from harm and damage with an appropriate measure’. In an EYFS setting, safeguarding refers to the policies and procedures we use to ensure that children are safe and secure in the setting. It involves the protection of children within your setting from abuse and maltreatment, including child protection, recruitment of suitable people, medication, accidents, illness and emergencies, suitability of the premises and equipment, health and safety.

Safeguarding and welfare requirements (section 3 of the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework) state children learn best when:

  • they are healthy, safe and secure
  • their individual needs are met
  • they have positive relationships with the adults caring for them.

The Early Years Foundation Stage, Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements state “providers must be alert to any issues for concern in the child’s life at home or elsewhere. Providers must have and implement a policy and procedures to safeguard children.”

As well as being a statutory requirement, parents want to know that their childcare provider provides a safe learning environment where their child will thrive.

The term safeguarding is used more broadly and according to Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018), it means:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • Ensuring the children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

Three Key Principles of Safeguarding

  • First and foremost, a child’s needs should be put first — always.
  • Children must be offered help and support as early as possible – before issues escalate
  • Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility and everyone in a setting should act in a timely and coordinated manner to respond to any concerns about the welfare of a child.

How big of an issue is safeguarding in the UK?

Safeguarding is an incredibly important and significant issue in the U.K. In fact, more than 60,000 child protection plans started in 2017. As the graph demonstrates the number of child protection plans beginning each year has grown year on year since 2010.

There are over 11 million children under 18 in the UK and over 390,000 children received support from children’s services in England in 2017.

In addition, one in 14 children has been physically abused.

And over 390,000 children received support from children’s services in England in 2017. 

The importance of safeguarding in EYFs settings is highlighted when you look at the statistics around sexual abuse:

1 in 20 children in the UK has been sexually abused, however, 1 in 3 children who are sexually abused do not tell anyone.

A number of factors result in a child being classified as ‘in need’

More than 22 factors have been identified as being associated with children in need in England; the most prevalent factor is domestic violence.

What should you do in your setting

All childcare professionals need to understand how to recognise the signs and symptoms that a child is possibly being abused. It is also vital to know how to respond and make child protection referrals.

  1. Providers must be fully aware of all safeguarding policies and procedures.
  2. All childcare professionals must understand how to respond to any concerns regarding child protection.
  3. The EYFS requires that in every setting there must be a designated person to take lead responsibility for safeguarding. For childminders, this responsibility falls to themselves.
  4. The designated professional must be trained in child protection but all childcare professionals must be trained to understand their safeguarding policy and procedures and have up-to-date knowledge of safeguarding issues.
  5. There are four categories of abuse – physical, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect. It is an essential requirement that all practitioners understand what the categories of abuse are and what the signs and symptoms are for each.
  6. Providers must train all staff to understand their safeguarding policy and procedures and ensure that all staff have up to date knowledge of safeguarding issues.

The government guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children and What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused provides a national framework for all agencies working with children to join in partnership to safeguard our children effectively.

It is vital that childcare providers consider these documents and implement safeguarding policies and procedures in their setting. These policies should also align with the safeguarding policies of your local children’s safeguarding board. You can find your local children’s safeguarding board here.

If you are a manager or a trustee of an organisation, you should make sure all staff and volunteers understand and can implement your policies and procedures.

As a practitioner or volunteer, it is important that you are able to spot the signs and signals of abuse, and know how to report and escalate safeguarding concerns. You must not be afraid to ask questions and seek clarification if you suspect a child may be in need.

The Importance of Regular Risk Assessments

Regular risk assessments help to identify aspects of the early year’s environment that need to be checked regularly, decide what should be done to prevent harm and make sure the relevant actions are taken and updated when necessary.

A risk assessment is dynamic and continuous and is not a one-off event. They should be clear, well thought out, realistic and shared with everyone relevant in your setting. You are not expected to eliminate all risks, in fact, it is important that children learn to take appropriate risks but you must take reasonable precautions and ensure staff are trained and aware of their responsibilities.

Promote health and wellbeing

It is important to promote good health and wellbeing as a component of safeguarding children. High standards of hygiene and cleanliness will help to prevent the spread of infections and illnesses.

You must also have procedures for administering medicine and supporting children with medical needs or children who appear unwell during the day.

Prescribed medicine forms and non-prescribed medicine forms are useful in ensuring that the appropriate records are kept.

Other important factors include hygiene and healthy eating, ensuring fresh drinking water is accessible at all times and meeting first aid requirements.

Safeguarding is very important in early year’s education. That’s why we offer these resources to help you ensure your safeguarding is up to scratch.