Safeguard-Me Blog

Safeguarding in Out of School Settings: An Unseen Gap

The Unseen Gap: Safeguarding Our Children in Out-of-School Activities

Many parents breathe a sigh of relief when the school bell rings – their child is safe and supervised. But what about the after-school hours? When children are enrolled in after-school clubs, sports teams, or private tuition, are they truly protected?
The surprising truth is that out-of-school settings (OOSS) have far fewer regulations compared to schools. This hidden gap in safeguarding can leave children vulnerable.
Dangerous Assumptions:
Most parents assume the staff who run out-of-school activities are subject to the same rigorous checks as schools. We assume there are DBS checks for staff, clear safeguarding policies, and a designated lead for reporting concerns.
The Reality:
While most OOSS providers take safeguarding very seriously and implement these measures voluntarily, there is no legal requirement for them to do so in England (regulations differ slightly across the UK). This means some settings might operate with minimal oversight, increasing the risk of safeguarding harm.

The Department for Education report in 2022 summarised the sector as having "significant potential for safeguarding harm" and recommended exploring mandatory guidance on safeguarding standards in the sector with a legal compulsion for OOSS to notify Local Authorities about their service to enable them check adherence to basic safety standards.
The Gaps in the Law:
  • DBS Checks: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, are essential for identifying individuals who may be unsuitable to work with children. While almost all OOSS providers conduct them, they are not mandatory for all staff.
  • Safeguarding Policies: These policies outline procedures for reporting concerns, managing allegations, and promoting children's safety. Out-of-school settings are not legally obligated to have one.
  • Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL): Schools have a designated person responsible for safeguarding, but this role isn't mandatory in OOSS settings.
What This Means for Our Children:
The lack of regulation can create a situation where:
  • Children may be supervised by individuals who haven't been properly vetted.
  • There may be no clear procedures for reporting abuse, leaving children unsure who to trust.
  • Staff may not receive adequate training on identifying and responding to safeguarding concerns.
What Can We Do?
As parents, we can take an active role in safeguarding our children:
  • Ask Questions: Before enrolling your child, inquire about their safeguarding policies, DBS checks for staff, and the presence of a designated safeguarding lead.
  • Read the Fine Print: Review any registration forms or contracts carefully, paying attention to safeguarding procedures.
  • Trust Your Gut: If something feels off about a setting, don't ignore it. Choose a provider that prioritises safety and transparency.
  • Ask your local MP or Local Authority: Do they have any plans to introduce improved safeguarding in your borough or even raise it at a national level?
Bridging the Gap with Safeguard-Me
Here's where we can play a crucial role. We offer a comprehensive online platform that helps OOSS providers establish a consistent bar of safeguarding vetting, record keeping, and reporting. This streamlines the process for companies while giving parents peace of mind.
Here's how we help:
  • Vetting and DBS Checks: Safeguard-me facilitates a smooth DBS checking process, ensuring all staff are thoroughly vetted.
  • Record Keeping: Out secure platform allows companies to store safeguarding records electronically, ensuring easy access and compliance.
  • Simplified Management: The platform simplifies staff management tasks related to safeguarding, saving companies valuable time and resources.
  • Transparency for Parents: Parents can view staff qualifications and safeguarding certificates, fostering trust and confidence.
By partnering with us, OOSS providers can demonstrate their commitment to child safety, making them a more attractive option for parents.
Protecting our children is a collective responsibility. We need to raise awareness about the gaps in out-of- school safeguarding, advocate for stricter regulations, and ask organisations to use safeguarding services like us to bridge this critical gap. Together, we can create a safer environment for children in all aspects of their lives.