Nursery World webinar: Why nursery security is a top priority

Karen Hart
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

‘Playing safe: why nursery security is a top priority’ was hosted by Nursery World in partnership with Almas Industries. Karen Hart pulls out the key discussion points

To address some of the questions and major concerns around nursery security, Nursery World and Almas Industries – an expert in the field of business security – brought together a panel of education and early years experts to discuss this important subject.

OFSTED EXPECTATIONS

Liz Roberts began by focusing on the approach to creating a safe environment for all children, and how nurseries can reassure parents and meet Ofsted’s expectations.

Minimising the possible impact of the recruitment crisis, using CCTV effectively, delivering staff training and working with parents were all identified as key areas.

Sarah Dimsdale kicked off the discussion with a rundown of Ofsted’s expectations on security:

  • Leaders and managers have put in place effective policies that are well understood by everyone in the setting.
  • The physical environment must be safe and secure and protects children from harm, or the risk of harm.
  • Adults make clear risk assessments and respond consistently to protect children, while enabling them to take age-appropriate and reasonable risks as part of their growth and development.
  • There is a strong, robust and proactive response from adults working with children that reduces the risk of harm or actual harm to them.
  • Children are only released into the care of individuals of whom the parent has explicitly notified the provider.
  • Children do not leave the premises unsupervised.
  • They take all reasonable stepsto prevent unauthorised persons entering the premises and have an agreed procedure for checking the identity of visitors.

It was stressed that although the specific implementation of the safety requirements relating to the physical environment of a setting is left to the discretion of the individual nursery, it is important to view the environment through the lens of a child and to ensure it meets the EYFS safety guidelines.

The importance of reporting incidents to Ofsted was emphasised; for example, a child leaving the premises.

Dhanvanti Deshmukh provided the nursery manager’s perspective, saying that a positive workplace culture, and strong leaders, are essential to ensuring nurseries are safe and secure at all times. While recognising the importance of existing policies and procedures, she said ‘some more guidelines would definitely help’.

With past experience as an Ofsted inspector, John Warren emphasised the importance of revisiting your security. ‘Often the biggest problem is parents – doing things like leaving doors open,’ he said.

Robert Lee agreed there has to be a strong focus on parents and staff.

‘For example, it is important to give staff the knowledge and empowerment to be able to go up to people they don’t recognise without worrying about being overly polite, and actually challenge them about their reasons for being in the nursery,’ he said.

Dhanvanti highlighted the importance of explaining the significance of security and the procedures used in your nursery to parents when you are conducting show-rounds. ‘For example, explaining such things as the need to show some identity if someone new is coming to pick up a child is important,’ she said. ‘Explaining that this is all part and parcel of security and looking after their children.’

‘OVERLOOKING’

John outlined his experience of concerns from parents when another building overlooks their child’s setting.

He explained how his own nursery group has written a policy on ‘overlooking’ to cover this.

‘We realise that there will be buildings that overlook us, and there will be people that look out of their windows – but it’s when behaviour is identified as unusual that is concerning,’ he said. ‘If somebody keeps revisiting the window, standing there for long periods to take pictures, we will take action, and that is to contact police.’

Sarah added that in this situation, Ofsted would be looking for a proportionate and risk-based approach from the setting.

‘MINI INDUCTIONS’

Liz moved the discussion on to the subject of the ongoing recruitment crisis and how this links to safety concerns around ratios.

Liberty Butcher made the point that the main difficulty comes with making sure you have enough staff to count in ratio and ensure safety.

She highlighted how it can be a problem to make sure those headcounts and security checks don’t slip when staff are struggling due to low staffing levels. ‘It comes down to the management team to make sure those checks remain a priority,’ she said.

John added that if he has a bank or agency member of staff at one of his nurseries, a mini-induction is used. ‘It takes about 20 minutes, sitting down and going through important points of security, making it very clear concerning the things they can and can’t do,’ he said.

The panel moved on to the subject of children with SEND, and how its increased identification is further impacting ratios. John pointed out the importance of knowing your children really well, and being aware that some may require constant one-to-one attention.

SECURITY SOLUTIONS

The discussion went on to explore how effective security systems can help providers cut down on bureaucracy and make better use of staff time.

Gemma Wakley reported that Almas has seen an uptake in the use of security solutions, in a bid to streamline security and give greater peace of mind. There has also been a change in the perception of CCTV – with it now being seen as an additional pair of eyes. ‘Footage can be given to Ofsted in the event of an incident,’ she said.

CCTV featured most strongly in a survey carried out by Nursery Worldand Almas. This covered issues such as data compliance, GDPR and privacy. While around half of the respondents said they felt CCTV was a positive tool to protect nursery staff and children, around a third did have concerns about data security, and more than a quarter felt that it showed a lack of trust in staff.

Liberty added that Storal Nurseries has introduced entrance-based facial-recognition readers, which has garnered a mixed response from parents. Shereported that this saves around six hours out of a manager’s day – drastically cutting down time spent on getting up and answering the doorbell.

While there were mixed feelings among the panel on the subject of CCTV, it was agreed it will increasingly be used in nurseries.

Q & A

One attendee asked what action could be taken for children who are not allowed to appear in other children’s profiles due to safeguarding issues, such as being adopted or on the child protection register? Liberty answered by saying that other than declining access to a specific person wishing to view the footage, nurseries can blur out the profiles of children as required, with footage being kept confidential and only there for safeguarding, local authority, Ofsted, or court use.

Another question was: Does Ofsted score nurseries according to the level of their physical security? And what is it looking for in terms of access control and CCTV?

Sarah answered this by saying Ofsted is looking for compliance with the statutory framework as set out in the inspection handbook, as this is what inspectors will refer to in making those judgements – some of these requirements being explicit.

The discussion was wrapped up by a look at the results of the webinar poll: ‘Do you now feel better about CCTV?’ The results showed that 71 per cent of people said they now had a more positive view of CCTV.

The panel

Liz Roberts (chair) is a consultant, editor and writer. Liz was editor-in-chief of Nursery Worlduntil the end of 2022. Liz is trustee of the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) and of Coram Family and Childcare.

Dhanvanti Deshmukh is nursery manager for London Early Years Foundation. Dhanvanti has more than 20 years’ experience in the early years sector.

Gemma Wakley is UK sales manager at Almas Industries. Gemma joined Almas nearly six years ago and has extensive knowledge of security solutions and compliance requirements.

John Warren is director of Toddletown Nurseries and Toddleworld Franchise, and an early years consultant with experience at all levels of early years.

Mandy Mooney is an early years senior officer at Ofsted.

Sarah Dimsdale is a specialist advisor, early years regulatory policy and practice, for Ofsted.

Jayne Coward is a senior early years inspector at Ofsted.

Liberty Butcher is health, safety and environment manager, Storal Nurseries.

Robert Lee is health and safety manager at Childbase Partnership.

Download Now

Nursery World Print & Website

  • Latest print issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Free monthly activity poster
  • Themed supplements

From £11 / month

Subscribe

Nursery World Digital Membership

  • Latest digital issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Themed supplements

From £11 / month

Subscribe

© MA Education 2024. Published by MA Education Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, London SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 04002826. MA Education is part of the Mark Allen Group. – All Rights Reserved