Safeguarding is an important part of training to become a childminder. In fact, you can’t start childminding without it. But why do you need a safeguarding course and what does it cover, what could it cost, and where can you find one?
What is safeguarding?
Safeguarding does what it says on the box—it is how to understand and recognise risks for children in your care, how to keep them safe from harm, and what to do if a child is at risk. It’s the responsibility of any adult working with children to:
- Protect children from maltreatment and abuse
- Prevent harm to children’s development or health
- Ensure children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care
- Take action to enable all children and young people to have the best outcomes
We have to make sure all children flourish and have a safe, healthy, happy childhood. A training course for childminders should cover these four points in-depth, so here’s an overview of what it all means—and how it applies to childminders.
What does a safeguarding course cover?
The four points above are just a road-map to the in-depth learning a childminder safeguarding course should provide. Let’s break them down to show you what they really mean, and how they apply to you as a childminder—within your home setting and when working with parents and local authorities to keep children safe.
Protecting children from maltreatment and abuse
As awful as it is, abuse is part of reality for many children. ‘Maltreatment and abuse’ includes any and all kinds of abuse and mistreatment of children:
- Physical abuse (e.g. hitting, shaking, throwing or otherwise hurting children)
- Sexual abuse (sexual exploitation, grooming etc.)
- Neglect (not feeding children well, not dressing them properly, poor hygiene etc.)
- Emotional abuse (e.g. making children feel threatened, humiliated, or isolated)
Safeguarding training will teach you anything within these four categories, and how to recognise the signs of abuse. It will also teach you how to act if you suspect a child is at risk of harm, who to turn to, and what not to do.
Preventing harm to children’s development or health
It’s a really important part of your job as a childminder to make sure no harm comes to the amazing little people in your care. Most of the time, children will arrive happy and healthy, ready for another fun day with you. But you have to watch out for those moments when they don’t, especially if they seem to happen often.
A safeguarding course will help you tell the difference between a normal bump or bruise, and what could be physical abuse. It’s not your job to decide if it’s abuse or not: that’s up to your local authority safeguarding professionals. However, it is your job to report any suspected abuse, and to notify the right professionals so they can help you protect the little people you are looking after.
You also have to think about any other adults within your setting, like your assistants if you work with someone, or your relatives if you live with them. Children can also subject their peers to bullying or other forms of abuse. Sometimes your suspicion will turn out to be nothing. But, your watchful eye and sympathetic ear is going to make a world of difference to a child if it is abuse.
The roles and responsibilities of a childminder in relation to safeguarding
Ensuring children are safe is a crucial part of the role of a childminder, and an important responsibility. It’s your job to make sure your home and the places you bring children to are safe, and that they also are good places for the children to play and learn. Watching an adult film at the cinema might be great… if you’re an adult!
You have to make sure that activities are age-appropriate, that places you bring children to are safe for them, and that your home is a stimulating environment for them to learn and grow in. That includes things that seem more obvious, like preparing healthy food, keeping their little bottoms clean, or giving them a cuddle when they fall. All these things are just part of a typical day for a childminder.
There are other safeguarding factors to think of in your own home setting: the privacy of the children, their access to the internet, and any visitors or anyone with access to the property, to mention just a few. A good safeguarding course will give examples of how you deal with that, and what your responsibilities are.
Taking action to enable all children and young people to have the best outcomes
Childminders care just as deeply about encouraging children to be independent, and developing these skills through open-ended play. They also support children by being reliable, warm and welcoming grown-ups. They can take a ‘child centred approach’, where the wellbeing of the child is at the heart of everything we do. For children to have the chance to play, explore, and challenge themselves in a safe and stimulating environment.
Specific areas of safeguarding
Safeguarding training changes with time, and the areas covered in a course depend on what happens in our community. A current (2021) safeguarding course in England will also cover topics like Prevent duty (dealing with the threats and influences of terrorism), FGM (female genital mutilation), witchcraft, county lines and breast ironing. These are difficult issues, so it’s important to find a course provider that handles them appropriately.
Where can I find a good safeguarding course for childminders?
There are lots of online courses available now, but figuring out which ones are in-depth and worth your time and money can be difficult. Is a 1-hour course of PowerPoint slides going to give you the kind of information you really need? It’s one thing to get the certificate. It’s another to actually have understood all the information, and know what to do with it.
Costs depend on where and how you take the course: if you will have to travel or take it online; with your local authority or with an independent provider. It also depends how in-depth your training is; and if you decide you need additional training. Expect anything from £15.00 to over £60.00.
If you decide to start up as an independent childminder registering directly with Ofsted, you will have to take the time to locate a course and make sure it will give you what you need. Finding out during your Ofsted registration visit that your knowledge isn’t enough to pass is a little too late.
Why do I need to complete safeguarding training?
In line with Ofsted requirements, a childminder will need a written child protection policy to follow, that any assistants working with them are also familiar with. If you have safeguarding training, you should be prepared to answer any questions during a registration visit. If you are a childminder with an agency, they usually make sure you get a refresher course every year and that you are up-to-date with the latest policies. Any assistants you take on are trained too. Safeguarding training is part of the EYFS Framework, so it is mandatory, but it’s not just a box to tick.
Children are vulnerable. They are small, they have little experience of the world, and they have a hard time articulating everything that happens to them. They have amazing little minds that need our encouragement, love, and protection to grow and flourish. If something traumatising occurs at an early age, it can deeply damage a child, and the adult they become. But if you are there to spot the signs and take proper action, you can literally save a life.
If you or anyone you know suspects that a child is being harmed or at risk of being harmed, you must immediately contact your Local Safeguarding Children Board.