The most important thing is creating an open culture where staff can ask questions and know it is not a reflection on their practice,’ says Kerry Maddock, director of Little Rainbows. ‘It gives them confidence to know there is no silly question.’
Ms Maddock, who is the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) in her setting, has been commended by Ofsted for her attention to detail on safeguarding training, which said in its recent Ofsted report, ‘The manager ensures that staff are exceptionally well trained in understanding and implementing the procedures to follow should they have any concerns about a child's welfare.’
Safeguarding training at Little Rainbows includes:
Learning Walks: These best practice walks are carried out by senior staff three times per week, and include ‘What would you do if?’ questions on safeguarding and first-aid; e.g. what would you do if a child came in with recurrent marks or had a seizure?
Formal training: One Saturday each year, the team meets for a safeguarding and first-aid training day in the setting. ‘Sending people on external courses, you can’t ensure quality of that training – and it is very important to know the quality of what they are being told. You want them to learn things they didn’t know,’ Ms Maddock says.
She uses an external consultancy that ‘keeps on top of the game and is always actively searching [for updates]’. She finds local authority training on safeguarding goes into the referral process but doesn’t reveal how much information to put on a form.
First-aid training is repeated annually because ‘if it is epilepsy or seizures, we find three years is a long time and you forget’. All staff are also fire marshal trained.
Discussions on policy changes: Ms Maddock says, ‘We tell them what has happened for that policy to come into place. It’s not enough to know you have a policy. It is knowing why it is important. For example, we looked at Little Teds nursery as a case study (where paedophile Vanessa George worked). Before this we wouldn’t have taken our phones onto the floor, but there was no policy in place to say that.’
Case-study-based training: Ms Maddock looks for serious case reviews from around the country and incorporates the findings into informal training with staff. She says, ‘We are based in Wirral and don’t have that many, but other areas of the country do. [We don’t just want to] hear about the very high-profile cases when actually a child dies every week.
‘If you are not on top of new case reviews, you can’t learn those lessons. In Nottingham, there has been an increase in [spirit] possessions; the only really high-profile case is Victoria Climbié. When you ask people about Victoria, people don’t necessarily know that.’
DSL knowledge: Ms Maddock says she is ‘constantly searching for changes in legislation. Every three weeks I spend a full day dedicated to training: I will identify areas that the girls need to be updated on.’ These are covered in staff meetings every six weeks.
The setting also considers adult well-being a safeguarding issue. ‘We need to safeguard our children from factors which affect our staff,’ Ms Maddock says. ‘It’s about creating a supportive environment where staff can talk about challenges.’ Adjustments can be made to help staff who might benefit from coming in half an hour later in the mornings for a period of time, for example. Staff also cover absences from within the core team and don’t get bank staff in. ‘Every child knows every member of staff,’ Ms Maddock says.
The setting has a good relationship with a local health visitor, while the local authority pays for a speech and language therapist and teacher of the deaf visits. Social work contacts are more of a mixed picture. Ms Maddock says, ‘The quality of the social work knowledge you get coming through varies greatly. We need to be able to push forward with our concerns if something isn’t right.’
Every local authority has a duty to provide a threshold document. Wirral’s includes four different scales of threshold for referral – from universal to statutory services (https://www.wirralsafeguarding.co.uk/multi-agency-thresholds).
Ms Maddock says, ‘We quote the threshold document to the local authority. We have more children on CPP plans and CiN plans than ever before. We also look at learning and development – this is another aspect where settings fall down. They are not confident in saying “this child has a delay”. There is so much pressure put on settings for children to achieve, but this tends to mask the problem.’
Ms Maddock says giving parents support early on key areas such as behaviour can ensure things don’t escalate. She says knowing the child protection process can help parents feel secure.
‘It is important to know the process – there is team around the family, Child in Need then Child Protection Plan. Just because a child is on CPP doesn’t mean the child will be removed,’ she says. ‘Unless the designated safeguarding lead can reassure parents “yes, your child is on a CPP but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be taken away”, parents can go into denial and say “I am going to remove the child from you and put them somewhere else”. By the designated safeguarding lead having that knowledge, it helps reassure everybody what is going to happen next.’
Name Little Rainbows Day Nursery
Number of settings 1
Director Kerry Maddock
Hopscotch early years consultancy comment: ‘It’s not just safeguarding in the sense of observing and referring vulnerable children, but in the whole sense.’