Thursday, 9 July 2009

Cameras, childminders and the EYFS

With the shocking headlines that a Nursery worker has been abusing children and using photographs in improper ways, the camera debate has inevitably started up again.

Leading early years practitioners are calling for calm and common sense. They suggest that instead of panicking and losing so much of the good practice we have built up around taking photographs of children we must instead ensure our safeguarding practices are robust.

First of all, think about why you use photographs of children. You will...

• Display them around the setting to promote children’s self esteem (PSED);

• Give them to parents to feed back their achievements (2.2 Parents as partners);

• Use them to build up an interesting and informative learning journey (3.1 Observation, assessment and planning);

• Put them on birthday charts to teach children about a sense of time (KUW);

• Make albums with the children to show outings they have been involved in to promote a sense of place (KUW);

• Organise visits to promote activities such as people who help us and take photographs to remind children about their learning (3.4 The wider context);

• Send cameras home so children can take photos of their home lives to share within the setting, thereby promoting home and setting links (2.2 Parents as partners) and giving children a sense of belonging (PSED);

• Put on a CD to give to parents at Christmas or on birthdays (if celebrated) to promote partnership working (2.2);

• Use pictures of the children as story prompts (CLL);

• Add them to collages that promote equality of opportunity and diversity (1.2 Inclusive practice);

• Personalise resources such as adding baby’s photo to a jam jar lid for him to find in his treasure basket (4.2 Active learning);

• Make alphabet charts featuring all the children in the setting (3.2 supporting every child);

• Take pictures of children washing their hands or involved in other healthy living routines to support other children’s learning (1.4 health and well being);

• Photograph a child’s achievements (4.2 supporting learning) and document his learning to promote his continued interest (PSED)... and much more!

So, photos are useful and educational as tools to support us when we are working with children, working with parents and providing evidence of our activities etc for Ofsted.

However, we must make sure children are safe and protected from abuse so we need policies and safeguards in place...

• Parents must sign to say they are happy for their child’s photo to be taken and used in a variety of situations such as to display on your wall, put in their learning journey, go in general albums etc;

• You need to promote photos to parents and be clear with them about why you take them and how they are used. You could do this through your initial parent literature or by including information in your welcome booklet or on your website for parents to access (2.2 Parents as partners);

• Consider having an open door policy, so parents can stay and watch you with their child until they are confident you are the right person to work with them. This might take some parents longer than others and you may be concerned about the disruption to your setting but it is good practice and an excellent way to reassure parents that they are making the right decision;

• Ensure you have clear paperwork in place, which is shared with parents before their child starts with you, including information about how cameras are used in the setting;

• Prioritise regularly updated (at least every 3 years) safeguarding training for yourself and anyone who works with you;

• If you put photos from which children can be recognised on your computer, you must find out if you need to register with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO);

• If you work with a co-childminder or assistant, they must have a valid CRB check which is shared with parents to reassure them that you take steps to ensure their child’s safety. If you act transparently in all dealings with parents they will have more reason to trust you;

• Have clear information, to be shared with parents, for co-childminders and assistants about how to whistle blow if they have concerns about bad practice related to anyone connected with your setting;

• Risk assessments need to be updated to say what you would do if you see adults taking photographs of your minded children in the park or on outings. It would probably not be wise to challenge them as you could get hurt (although that might be our first thought) but you would be within your rights to call the Police;

• A Confidentiality Policy that clearly safeguards a child and their family’s right to privacy and states what information may and may not be shared, including mention of photographs;

• Reassure parents that you do not store photos and explain how you taken them... promptly print them... then discard from all media to protect against theft of memory cards full of children’s pictures. You might also show parents where you lock cameras and memory sticks overnight so if there is a theft, they are safe;

• Share Visitor Policies and a visitor log book with parents, so parents can see (at any mutually convenient time) who has been in the setting when their child was there;

• Be absolutely clear when speaking with parents that you would never take inappropriate photos of their children for example, in the bath or without clothes. If parents would feel more comfortable seeing photos of their child before you print, organise this in a sensitive way that ensure confidentiality for other children’s images;

• Do not use mobile phones for photos – maybe adding this to your safeguarding policy – I feel a re-write of mine coming on;

• A clear Complaints Procedure and details provided to parents about how to contact Ofsted if they have a concern;

• If you work with students, they will never be asked to evidence their work by taking photos of children... but they might take photos of the setting and displays they have helped make etc. This information would need to be shared with parents as part of the information pack and permissions you give them if you agree to mentor a student;

• Childminders are their child’s key person – if you work with another childminder, you might share the key person responsibility. Parents must be told who their child’s key person is and that person should do the bulk of the child’s care routines to follow parents wishes;

• A Safeguarding Policy that is treated as a working document and updated at least annually, in partnership with the parents;

• A clear policy throughout the setting and shared with all assistants and co-childminders that the children come first – not parents, not colleagues and not visiting friends. If the children’s safety is compromised in any way, then steps must be immediately taken to protect them.

I hope you find this useful to add to your Portfolio of evidence of how you protect children from inappropriate use of cameras and photographs in your setting.

If you have any comments I would enjoy hearing them.

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