Reducing red tape for early years providers was one of the aims of the Tickell review and releasing staff from paperwork means they can spend more time focusing on the individual children in their care.
In looking at the various areas in which bureaucracy could be cut, the revised EYFS has taken account of the sector's views in relation to risk assessment. This has led to significant change, says Mandy Terry, lead consultant with Acorn Childcare Training.
'The new framework states that providers must have a clear and well-understood policy and procedures for assessing and reviewing risk, and this does not have to be written down,' she says.
'However, it is suggested that providers may wish to document some risk assessment with regard to specific issues which might support staff, or demonstrate to parents/carers and Ofsted how risk is being managed.'
Ms Terry believes another benefit of this revision is that managers of settings will need to ensure policy is clear and that their team understands policy regarding risk assessment. 'This will lead to more discussion and dialogue within the team which will enable practitioners to be informed and to check their understanding of risk assessment,' she says.
A key change is that risk assessments for outings no longer need to be written down. Formerly providers needed to carry out a full risk assessment for each type of outing including the required adult-to-child ratios and the nature of the outing. Providers were expected to review the assessment before embarking on each specific outing, even when undertaking a regular, routine trip and this rigidity was the cause of much complaint in the sector about the burden of bureaucracy.
The new requirement emphasises there is still a duty on providers to ensure that children must be kept safe on outings and says: 'Providers must assess the risks or hazards which may arise for the children, and must identify the steps to be taken to remove, minimise and manage those risks and hazards. The assessment must include consideration of adult to child ratios. The risk assessment does not necessarily need to be in writing; this is for providers to judge.'
Ms Terry welcomes the change as she believes that providers will instead have to demonstrate how they are minimising risk. This, she believes, 'will lead to a much more practical approach with practitioners being involved in discussing and thinking through how to minimise risk and hazard, providing a clearer understanding. It is not necessary for providers to document and record their assessments.'
She adds, 'Once again this places trust back where it belongs, with the individual setting. Additionally this reduces the amount of onerous paperwork required for regular outings taken by it.'
AN INDIVIDUAL DECISION
Oakwood House Nursery in Huddersfield, part of the Portland Nurseries group, reports that it plans to continue to produce written risk assessments for outings.
Manager Samantha Richmond says, 'They make everybody aware of the risks entailed and how we are going to minimise them. By having them written and recorded everybody is aware of what they need to do.
'These written risk assessments are very much working documents and any observations about an outing will be recorded to help inform the thinking next time around.'
According to Miss Richmond, writing a risk assessment for an outing is not just a paper exercise. She says, 'It is a necessity and all the staff find it is very helpful.'
The document includes consideration of standard issues such as ratios - which are always increased for outings - parental consent, the register, route, mode of travel, weather, traffic, and the possibility of dog faeces as well as factors specific to that particular trip.
Acorn's Ms Terry corroborates that providers must address these key concerns in a way they feel is most efficient. 'They need to ensure appropriate adult-to-child ratios so that children are kept safe, that there is adequate supervision, and that children's needs can be met. The revised EYFS states that children must be "always within sight or hearing", which is important when children are out of the setting.'
In addition nurseries must always now obtain written parental permission for children to take part in outings whereas before this was "guidance to which providers should have regard". Ensuring that the vehicle in which children may be transported is adequately insured is also now a must rather than guidance.
'The requirements around safety remain mostly intact although somewhat slimmed down, and all requirements are mandatory,' says Ms Terry. 'There have been some changes to how settings manage fire safety. Whereas previously providers only had to have regard to the fact that fire exits need to be clearly identifiable, fire doors free from obstruction and easily opened from the inside, these are now mandatory requirements. Emergency evacuation procedure must also be in place.'
She adds, 'Of course settings operating good practice in terms of health and safety will already have these things in place.'
KEY REQUIREMENTS FOR RISK ASSESSMENTS
- The requirements in relation to risk assessment have been adjusted to clarify that it is for providers to judge whether a risk assessment needs to be recorded in writing. Providers must determine where it is helpful to make some written risk assessments in relation to specific issues, to inform staff practice, and to demonstrate how they are managing risks if asked by parents and/or carers or inspectors
- Risk assessments should identify aspects of the environment that need to be checked on a regular basis, when and by whom those aspects will be checked regularly, and how the risk will be removed or minimised
- When it comes to outings, providers must assess hazards and identify steps to remove, minimise and manage them but it is up to providers to judge whether this needs to be in writing
- Parental permission must always be granted to take children on trips and vehicles must be adequately insured
- There are now exceptions to the adult-child ratios for childminders in specific circumstances. While at any one time childminders may care for a maximum of six children under eight, a maximum of three may be young children and only one child may be under one year old. However, under the new rules, if a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and inspectors, that the individual needs of all the children are being met, then exceptions to the usual ratios can be made when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or when looking after their own baby.
- If children aged four and five only attend the childminding setting before and/or after a normal school day, and/or during school holidays, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children. But in all cases, the childminder must adhere to the requirement that the total number of children under the age of eight being cared for must never exceed six.
- Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/a0068102/early-years-foundation-stage-eyfs