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As the cold weather approaches, winter safeguarding checks for childcare providers and after school clubs become necessary. Extra precautions need to be taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the children in your care. A mixture of cold temperatures, flu and viruses, and the potential for unpredictable or hazardous weather can pose unique challenges. We will explore essential safeguarding checks that childcare providers, after school clubs and nurseries should implement during the winter months.

         1.      Indoor Environment Safety

During very cold weather, rooms should be heated and ventilated in a way that is aligned with guidelines. According to Ofsted, the minimum temperature for a nursery in the UK is 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit). Children should be warm enough and comfortable enough to engage in activities. Ventilation is equally important to help prevent the spread of germs, and also to prevent condensation and mould occuring within the nursery.

An inspection of the property can also be very beneficial. Any leaks in the roof or groundwork could cause unwanted water to access the premises, or create hazards. Windows should be properly sealed and areas of damp should be addressed. Speak to your facilities manager and ask them to complete a thorough pre-winter inspection so that any matters can be dealt with promptly.

         2.      Hand Hygiene

Winter is a breeding season for bugs, and childcare settings are hot spots for the rapid spread of disease. Children don’t always know to wash their hands or not get too close to another child, making it very easy for a bug to spread quickly. Ensure that you teach and reinforce proactive hand-washing techniques among children and staff. Give everyone easy access to handwashing facilities with soap and water or hand sanitisers.

Once you have identified an illness in a child, take the appropriate steps as per your policies to keep that child isolated, or send the child home until they are better.

For more detailed information on the procedures to follow for illnesses, you can view the Gov.UK website. Ensure that your illness policies are up to date, and are followed by all staff. You can also encourage staff to have seasonal vaccinations to prevent the spread of illnesses like the flu.

        3. Emergency Preparation

Winter can be unpredictable. A flood, snow, and thunderstorms can cause havoc in a childcare setting or after-school club. Power cuts, heating failures and flooding are just some of the consequences of bad weather.

Another emergency can be that staff are unable to come to the nursery due to bad weather, leaving an unsafe number of staff present. For all eventualities, make sure that you have a robust winter weather plan. Ensure that all children have emergency contact details in case of a sudden closure or emergency.

4. Outdoor Safety

There are two main things to consider when assessing outdoor safety in winter. First, that the environment is safe and secure, without any slippery ice, dangerous play equipment or exposure to harsh weather environments. In a very cold frost, it is advisable to have playtime indoors, to prevent the children from getting too cold.

Secondly, the children should all have appropriate winter clothing. This should include a warm coat, gloves, a hat, and appropriate footwear. You should speak to parents or provide alternatives for children if a child is coming to the setting without adequate clothing. You can also signpost parents to emergency funding and grants for the winter months if necessary.

        5. Communication with Parents

During harsh winters, it’s important parents can understand your policies and procedures so they can prepare themselves and their children. Ahead of winter, you could send parents an email outlining your procedures. If there are weather warnings, you could explain to parents under which circumstances you’d have to close your childcare setting. You can also encourage parents to participate in good hygiene practices to ensure good health.

        6. Access and Transport

An important winter safeguarding check for childcare providers is to ensure the building is accessible. Snow and floods can make it difficult to access a building, and providers should ensure that entry and exit points are safe, clear, and easy to find. Appropriate signage can help direct parents if the entry point has changed.

If local transport links have closed down due to bad weather (such as buses or trains not running), it’s important to inform parents and ask them to organise another way to get to the setting, or to keep their child home.

       7. Safeguarding Vulnerable Children

Winter can be especially difficult for children living in disadvantaged circumstances. Families can struggle with the high heating bills and Christmas expenses, which can make it harder to budget and ensure children have what they need in the winter. Ensure that children identified as vulnerable are monitored, that they have food and clothing that is appropriate for the time of year, and keep in touch with parents to ensure they are not struggling.

Winter can be a challenging time for childcare providers and nurseries, but by implementing these safeguarding checks, you can create a safe and healthy environment for the children in your care. By downloading Chequdin, you can stay on top of administration related to bad weather and remain organised, safe and compliant.

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