Fifty and Fabulous

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Support Children and Young People’s Health and Safety (D/601/1696) Part 3

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Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools

Unit 7: Support Children and Young People’s Health and Safety (D/601/1696)

This unit required me to carry out practical activities that were witnessed in a school setting. Due to confidentiality I will not be posting the paperwork that I sent to my tutor within this post. I hope you understand.

Learning Criteria: Understand how to support children and young people to assess and manage risk for themselves.

Question 3.1: Explain why it is important to take a balanced approach to risk management

It is good practice for a setting’s health and safety policy to have a section devoted to risk assessment; having a clear policy which states the setting’s overall objectives, together with written procedures that put these policies into practice, seems to be the key to good risk management within schools. Although the procedures should give clear guidance, our Health and Safety Officer says that they should also recognise that a degree of flexibility is required so that teaching staff can exercise their professional judgement. This approach will enable staff to strike a balance between safety and pursuing the pupil’s educational goals.

As a Mum, one of my main concerns is to keep my children safe from harm but I know that if they never experience risk or face challenges they will never grow and develop into well balanced adults; doing this can be very hard. Schools face the same balancing act; as practitioners, if we try to remove all risks from pupil’s school lives we could be restricting their learning experiences which would have a negative effect on their development. Of course, some risks obviously need to be avoided and we wouldn’t be competent in our role of caring for children and young people if we didn’t protect them from these dangers. Faulty electrical equipment, overloaded shelves and poisonous chemicals are a few examples of what can be clearly dangerous. On the other hand situations such as, climbing stairs, visiting the park, using a hammer or lighting a candle are experiences where is important to access the real level of risk. These experiences can extend the children’s learning and understanding on how to manage the real world in which they live.

It is very important that we teach children skills that will help them to manage dangers and risk for themselves. Giving children the opportunity to experience a certain level of risky experiences in a safe environment will help them to develop confidence and competence to make their own decisions in terms of risk taking. As already mentioned previously, risk assessment is an essential part of activity planning and a wide range of factors should be taken into consideration, such as, age of the children, the nature of the activity, the physical environment, the level of supervision required, etc. After doing a good risk assessment the activity can go ahead with the understanding that little accidents that might happen are a part of everyone’s learning experience. The Wiltshire LEA’s Health and Safety policy only requires us to formally assess significant and/or foreseeable risks to health and safety or welfare of employees, pupils or third parties and includes a non-exhaustive list of typical risk assessments that schools would be expected to have considered, undertaken and be able to produce on request. However, the manual also states that although hindsight often skews what is deemed to be foreseeable

Schools should not waste effort assessing risks from the unpredictable and incredible events that could conceivably occur

For example is if a child is never allowed to cut with scissors they will never learn to use them and develop their fine motor skills, so as adults, we must manage the risk by providing him/her with child friendly scissors, supervising him/her and making him/her aware of how to hold scissors when cutting and moving around the classroom. Many of the pupils who come through our food technology kitchen are not allowed to use knives, peelers, graters or cook on the hobs at home, as a parent myself I can understand this reticence, however, we show them how to hold, store and utilise these commonplace pieces of equipment in a safe and educational way.

So in conclusion, children need to experiment and explore their surrounding in order to learn. By taking risks, children build their capabilities, explore their emotions, expand their horizons and test boundaries while also gaining practical experience of taking responsibility for their own safety. Taking a balanced approach to risk management creates the opportunities for children and young people to develop while reducing excessively risky situations, thus minimizing the likelihood of an accident or injury.

Question 3.2: Explain the dilemma between the rights and choices of children and young people and health and safety requirements

As already covered in Unit 2 when discussing safeguarding and welfare, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes the right of children and young people to and education, to learn and make their own choices and to develop into adults, all while being protected from harm. This means that everyone working with children has a duty of care towards them and this is where the dilemma occurs.

Children learn and develop by making choices, exploring and experimenting within the environment around, each child is an individual and as such, makes his/her choices in their own way and has built up different likes and dislikes of but they do not necessarily have the skills, experience or judgement to make the safe choice. This is where a good practitioner comes in. The adult role is to encourage the child to explore, learn to make choices and have their voices heard when decisions are being made that involve or affect them. As a practitioner we must be there to support them by teaching them the skills needed, for example in the school garden, a child should not be stopped from using a spade and planting vegetables outside but instead must be provided with a child size tool, show them how to dig the soil safely, place the plant in the ground and be there to supervise them while doing so this supports the child’s choice while minimizing the risk. As a practitioner we need to give children that freedom to explore experiment and make choice but also make sure that the risk is managed by doing risk assessment and adult supervision. Children are bound to have accident when learning new thing but they must not stopped from doing so but we must look for ways of how this can be done safely.

Health and safety regulations may sometimes put a limit on those freedoms, so for the child’s wellbeing and safety we may limit their options. At the setting that I currently work in I have the responsibility of encouraging pupils to make choices to explore and progress their learning and developing skills, while ensuring that the activities and situations support the individual needs and abilities of the children, in a safe and well controlled environment, so that all children are protected from harm. This will mean that there are times when I need to intervene on a choice or decision a child makes, as the risk of harm outweighs what they have chosen to do. In these situations, it is essential that we explain why we have prevented them from carrying out their chosen action, and encourage them to think of the risks they may have faced, or others around them may have faced. This supports children’s understanding and awareness of their own safety and that of others, while encouraging them become aware of risks and consequences.

So, in conclusion through exploring new experiences and making choices, children and young people learn and develop the skills necessary to support them into their adult life, however they do not always have the skills and judgments that allows them to make safe choices and decisions. Therefore it is the responsibility of parents, carers and professional practitioners to identify potential dangers, and make the decision on when it is appropriate to allow the child to undertake an activity or make a choice.

 

Question 3.3: Give examples from own practice of supporting children and young people to assess and manage risks

As mentioned when answering the previous question, I currently work as a teaching assistant and have the responsibility of encouraging pupils to make choices to explore and progress their learning and develop skills, while ensuring that the activities and situations support their individual needs and abilities, in a safe and well controlled environment, so that all the children are protected from harm.

My time as a lunchtime supervisor at the school allows me plenty of opportunities to put this into practice.

For example, we regularly remind the children to slow down when running on the grass when it’s wet and suggest using the paths instead. As adults, we know that there is a higher risk of slipping/falling when a surface is wet, especially grass. Of course, we explain this to them and why we don’t think they should run on the wet grass but by letting them manage their own risks it supports them in making their own decisions regarding their safety and well being.

We have an area devoted to various play apparatus; balancing blocks, log rope, stepping logs, balance walk, rope walk with parallel bars. The children love this area and enjoy playing and challenging themselves to improve their skills. The older children enjoy doing forward and backward rolls on the parallel bars, we gently remind them to be aware of the space around them, to ensure their grip is solid and to be careful. We support the younger children to walk across the rope and teach them to hold onto the bars, reminding them that the acrobatics that they see the older children performing has been built up over their years at the school, encouraging them that if they don’t give up, perfect their balance and their handling of the bars that by the time they become Key Stage 2 pupils they’ll be doing forward rolls too. There is always a member of staff supervising this part of our playground and it can also be seen from where our First Aid officer stands.

Our Lake class is made up of children from Reception to Year 1 and at times they are allowed to ride scooters and bikes on their part of the playground. To help them to avoid injuries the teacher and the teaching assistants speak to them about safety rules and possible risk to hurt themselves or others if they do not follow these rules. When helping in that class last week, the teacher asked me to remind the children of the safety rules when using bikes and scooters and to supervise those children who will be taking part. I talked to them about hazards and asked them how they could make riding safer. As we have a separate area for riding I explained to the children why it is important to stay inside this area and I also explained why it is dangerous to walk or run into the riding area and what might happen if they will do so. When the children went out to play I supervised them to prevent any accidents, as expected, I had to remind some children about the rule but I think my support in this activity was quite effective because the children had lots of fun and nobody was injured.

That being said, there will always be some children that want to make their own minds up about this and don’t seem to listen, or those children with special needs who either learn at a different pace or are unable to understand the concept of danger, which is why appropriate staff are there to supervise them and will support them if anything does happen.

So in conclusion, by maintaining a safe environment without mollycoddling or wrapping them up in cotton wool, helps children and young adults to develop their skills and build up a sense of awareness so that they are able to assess the risks of any given activity or situation and managing the level of risks in their lives.

 

My answers for the next questions in this unit will follow…

Author: Fifty and Fabulous

I wear many hats in my life; I am a wife, a mum, a teaching assistant, a fiction editor, a proofreader, and a loyal and supportive friend.

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