Keeping Kids Safe: Safety Standards & Legal Requirements
Keeping Kids Safe: Safety Standards & Legal Requirements
Parents place an enormous amount of trust in educators when they leave children in their care. They walk away confident that their little ones will be kept safe, happy and stimulated until they arrive at the end of the day to collect them.
So when news around serious safety breaches come out, such as reports in January about a two-year-old boy found trapped in a storeroom at a NSW child care centre, questions are inevitably raised around exactly how providers keep the children in their care safe from harm.
For most early childhood education and care services in Australia, safety standards are regulated under the National Quality Framework (NQF). The NQF sets out a series of seven National Quality Standards (NQS) against which all early childhood education and care providers are assessed and rated. These requirements are also available on the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) website.
The seven quality areas are:
1. Educational program and practice.
2. Children’s health and safety.
3. The physical environment.
4. Staffing arrangements.
5. Relationships with children.
6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities.
7. Leadership and service management.
Quality Area 2 focuses on children’s health and safety, with an aim to minimise risks and protect children from harm, injury or infection, and provide for their physical and psychological wellbeing.
Element 2.2.1 in this Quality Area is focused on children’s safety. It states that “at all times, reasonable precautions and adequate supervision ensure children are protected from harm and hazard.”
Element 2.2.2 is concerned with incident and emergency management. It requires that “plans to effectively manage incidents and emergencies are developed in consultation with relevant authorities, practised and implemented.”
Here are the rules of law and regulations around child-safety at your centre:
It is an offence to:
- Inadequately supervise children (Section 165).
Other offences include:
- Offence relating to protection of children from harm and hazards (Section 167).
- Offence to fail to notify certain information to Regulatory Authority (Section 174).
National regulations state that your centre must provide:
- Supervision during excursions.
- Premises designed to facilitate supervision.
- Policies and procedures are required in relation to providing a child safe environment.
- Timeframes for notifying certain information to the Regulatory Authority
It’s not enough just to keep a passive eye on children as they go about their activities or hope that another colleague is doing the watching for you, says ACECQA. Early learning centres are busy and active places with plenty of distractions, so you need to practice ‘active supervision’ at all times.
This can be achieved by:
- Careful planning of rosters to ensure that educators are always available to respond to children.
- Policies and procedures that address supervision clearly.
- Flexible supervision arrangements to allow for supervision of individual children or small groups, such as sleeping children or indoor and outdoor experiences offered simultaneously.
- Close observation of children to provide support and to extend on children’s play experiences. Educators who closely observe children and are attuned to their needs and interests can recognise when children wish to play without adult involvement.
- Actively engaging with children to support their learning. Effective supervision requires a combination of observation and engagement.
- Scanning or regularly looking around the area to observe all children in the environment ensures that all children are actively supervised. Educators who are aware of the environment can identify appropriate positions for maximum vision of children. Educators should avoid standing with their backs to children and undertaking tasks that will distract them from supervising children, such as administrative tasks.
- Listening carefully to children and noting any changes of tone or volume in their voice. Noting these changes can assist in supervising children who may not be in direct vision.
- Evaluating situations to determine the potential risks and benefits for children’s health, safety and wellbeing. Observing children’s play and anticipating what may occur next allows educators to assist children as difficulties arise and to intervene when there is a potential danger to children.
The ACECQA regulations also highlights the importance of teamwork and communication in keeping kids out of harm’s way. Here’s how:
- Educators need to communicate and collaborate with one another to ensure children are supervised effectively. This is necessary to ensure educators know where their colleagues are in the service and how this may affect the supervision of children. For example, educators should let their colleagues know if they are leaving an area for any reason.
- Educators may also need to communicate details about individual children. For example, an infant who has had difficulty eating solid foods due to a cold may need to be monitored more closely when they are eating food.
Considerations for centre-based services:
- Children of different ages and abilities will need different levels of supervision. Generally, the younger children are, the more they need an adult to be close by to support and assist them. For young children, adequate supervision may involve children remaining in close proximity to the adult who is supervising them.
- Supervision of infants and toddlers who are sleeping will need to be carefully considered to ensure educators can see and hear children.
- With preschool age children, the program may involve simultaneous use of indoor and outdoor environments. It is important that educators effectively supervise children in both of these environments.
Early childhood educators are dedicated to providing a fun, enriching and – above all – safe learning environment for children. By demonstrating to parents that your centre strictly adheres to the national regulations and guidelines around safety, they’ll feel confident every morning leaving their young ones in your care.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 06 April 2021
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