Government proposes voluntary safeguarding code for out-of-school settings

Out-of-school settings will be asked to abide by a voluntary code of practice as part of government plans to improve safeguarding of children.

Out-of-school settings, such as religious settings, tuition centres, home education environments, youth centres, uniformed youth organisations, and extra curricular clubs, are currently not regulated by education and childcare law, meaning providers are not subject to the same safeguarding requirements as registered schools or childcare settings.

The DfE says that while there are many examples of exemplary providers that create positive and safe environments for children to flourish, there are also examples of settings that "lack sufficient safeguards" and in which children are at increased risk of harm to their physical or mental health; intellectual, emotional or behavioural development, or can be exposed to unsafe or hazardous environments.

"Many out-of-school settings do a great job in providing enriching activities in a variety of subjects; we want to support them to understand how they can continue to do this whilst ensuring the safety of children," a document published by the DfE as part of a 12-week consultation on the plans states.

"The activities set out in this code would not be mandatory (except where they highlight existing legal and regulatory requirements, which are made clear in the code), but providers would be strongly encouraged to put in place robust policies in order to help ensure that all children attending their settings are kept safe from all forms of harm."

"The approach to improving oversight of out-of-school settings must be proportionate, and avoid creating undue burdens on the sector as a whole.

The government had previously considered stronger oversight of out-of-school settings, but, following an earlier consultation, it announced in April that confirmed that it did not intend to formally regulate them, or pursue proposals to beef up Ofsted powers regarding illegal schools.

Since then it has been piloting how safeguarding can be enhanced through multi-agency working in 16 local authorities.

"This draft code would complement those pilots by consolidating in one place the key things providers should be thinking about to help ensure they are providing a safe environment," the consultation document states.

The government is also currently considering whether children who are home-schooled should be formally registered and the quality of their education officially monitored, amid concerns that local authorities are struggling to keep track of them.

It is yet to outline what action it intends to take following a consultation that closed in July. The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) has said tougher regulation is needed due to an increase in the number of children being home-schooled, claiming it is making it harder for councils to ensure children are receiving a good education.

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