xuk safeguarding children
xuk safeguarding children

Safeguarding Children and OFSTED

Safeguarding children is the responsibility of us all. Whether you’re OFSTED, a parent, teacher, carer or even an adult who has no direct responsibility for children, we must all do what we can to look after our young and vulnerable.

The media play a vital and positive role in reporting high profile cases but do they do enough to understand how safeguarding is regulated and where governments should be tightening to make provisions even safer?

What is safeguarding?

The NSPCC describe Safeguarding as: “the action that is taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm. Safeguarding means: protecting children from abuse and maltreatment preventing harm to children’s health or development ensuring children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care taking action to enable all children and young people to have the best outcomes”

Who is responsible for regulating Safeguarding?

There is not one regulator of ‘safeguarding’. Individuals and families would be effectively regulated by the Police and local councils. Schools and childcare provisions that are registered with OFSTED are inspected and safeguarding rightly makes up a vital part of their report. Fail on safeguarding and a provision will be put into special measures or shut down.

And there are many amazing organisations, most notably the NSPCC who are there to help keep children safe. The NSPCC is the UK's leading children's charity, preventing abuse and helping those affected to recover.

What about childcare provisions not registered by OFSTED?

Surely this could not be possible? Could there be childcare provisions that can legally look after children without being registered and inspected? Unfortunately – yes!

OFSTED ‘s website states that ‘Most childcare providers looking after children under the age of 8 must register with Ofsted (or a childminder agency).’

I could not tell you what ‘most’ means and if OFSTED or the government have figures to back this up. Maybe the clue is in what they deem to be a ‘childcare provider’? Most people would suggest this is anyone looking after children. But it does not appear that OFSTED agree. To understand this it is important to look at the OFSTED registration exemptions page where it clearly states that if a provision’s main focus is one or two of ‘school study support or homework support’, ‘sports’, ‘performing arts’, ‘arts and crafts’, ‘religious, cultural or language studies’ then they do not need to register!

So, let’s make that clear… An organisation can easily set up a residential camp focusing mainly or solely on sport and then they do not need to register with OFSTED!? Can this be right?

ofsted camp safeguarding children at xuk
ofsted camp safeguarding children at xuk

What if provisions are not registered with OFSTED?

If provisions are not registered and inspected then parents and carers have less help understanding if their safeguarding provisions are secure enough and carried out appropriately. This puts children at risk! Not having to account for safeguarding to an independent source who understands it makes it harder for parents to trust where they are sending their children.

Of course, there will be non-OFSTED registered provisions who have immaculate safeguarding procedures. But this is about decreasing risk and restricting those who do not understand safeguarding or who wish to harm children.

What needs to happen?

It is fundamental that one of two options happen:

  1. The exemptions need to be changed so provisions looking after young children cannot get away without being registered with OFSTED. It is utterly irrelevant whether children are there to do multi activities, tennis, art or study! They need to be cared for, registered independently and inspected.
  2. If government dictates that this is not possible then they should legislate to make it law that these provisions are registered with trusted independent quality control organisations (such as BAC). It would be easy for government to have a list of approved organisations that provisions must be registered with!

Parents role

Whatever the registration status of any provision parents have a vital role to ensure they take responsibility and send their children to appropriate and safe places…

Wherever you send your child you should always ask providers about the measures in place to safeguard your child. For example:

  • What happens if my child has an accident and needs changing?
  • Who helps them get changed for swimming?
  • Are your staff all DBS checked?
  • Where are your policies and procedures?

By asking these questions, you can reassure yourself that your child will be as safe as possible.

Who can I trust?

Leaving your child in the care of somebody else requires trust. Can you trust everyone? You need to make that choice. But you decrease risk by choosing sensibly.

  • Being registered by an independent authority helps!
  • Only use reputable providers with policies and procedures in place. These should be publicly available online.
  • Recommendations are, of course, very useful. Which providers have your friends and family used in the past? Were their children happy and safe? Look out for parent testimonials too.
  • But even if someone has recommended always do your own checks and make sure you are happy with the provisions to make your child safe.

XUK run activity camps and summer schools for children and teens. Safeguarding is our number one priority.

Richard Bernstein is a Director of XUK Camps and has been running the organisation since 1996.