Children’s safety is our highest priority, both on and off the premises. Every attempt is made, through carrying out the outings procedure and the exit/entrance procedure, to ensure that the security of children is maintained at all times. In the unlikely event of a child going missing, our missing child procedure is followed. There are a number of situations where a child could be lost and the procedure for these is as follows.
Child goes missing from the premises
- As soon as it is noticed that a child is missing, the key person/staff member alerts the person in charge. The person in charge immediately enquires of relevant members of staff as to when the child was last seen and where.
- Ensuring that the remaining children are secure and sufficiently supervised by at least two members of staff, the remaining staff should search the building, garden and immediate vicinity.
- Doors and gates are checked to see if there has been a breach of security whereby a child could wander out.
- Staff continue to search, opening up the area, and keeping in touch with mobile phones.
- The person in charge telephones the police and reports the child as missing and then calls the parent.
- The register is checked to make sure that no other child has also gone astray.
- The person in charge talks to staff to find out when and where the child was last seen and records this.
- The person in charge contacts the chair of the nursery committee and reports the incident.
- The chair of the committee comes to the setting immediately to carry out an investigation (see below).
Child going missing on an outing
This describes what to do when staff have taken a small group on an outing, leaving the setting leader and or other staff back in the setting. If the setting leader has accompanied children on the outing, the procedures are adjusted accordingly. What to do when a child goes missing from a whole setting outing may be a little different, as parents usually attend and are responsible for their own child.
- As soon as it is noticed that a child is missing, staff on the outing ask children to stand with their designated carer and carry out a headcount to ensure that no other child has gone astray.
- Ensuring that the children are safe and sufficiently supervised, the remaining adults spread out in different directions and search the immediate area; they then open up the area as necessary.
- The person in charge (the most senior staff member) telephones the police and reports the child as missing.
- The nursery manager is contacted immediately (if not on the outing) and the incident is recorded.
- The nursery manager contacts the child’s parents.
- Staff take remaining children back to the setting.
- In an indoor venue, the staff contact the venue’s security as soon as the child is found to be missing. The venue’s security will assist in the search and contact the police if the child is not found.
- The setting leader contacts the chair of the nursery committee and reports the incident. The chair of the nursery committee comes to the setting immediately to carry out an investigation.
- The nursery manager or member of staff may be advised by the police to stay at the venue until they arrive.
- Staff keep calm and do not let the other children become anxious or worried.
- The nursery manager with a representative of the nursery committee speaks to the parents.
- The chair of the committee carries out a full investigation, taking written statements from all the staff who were on the outing.
- The key person/staff member writes an incident report detailing:
- the date and time of the report
- what staff/children were in the group and the name of the staff designated responsible for the missing child
- when the child was last seen in the group
- what has taken place in the group or outing since the child went missing
- the time it is estimated that the child went missing.
- A conclusion is drawn as to how the breach of security happened.
- If the incident warrants a police investigation, all staff co-operate fully. In this case, the police will handle all aspects of the investigation, including interviewing staff. Children’s social care may be involved if it seems likely that there is a child protection issue to address.
- The incident is reported under RIDDOR arrangement; the local authority Health and Safety Officer may want to investigate and will decide if there is a case for prosecution.
- In the event of disciplinary action needing to be taken, Ofsted is informed.
- Missing child incidents are very worrying for all concerned. Part of managing the incident is to try to keep everyone as calm as possible.
- The staff will feel worried about the child, especially the key person or the designated carer responsible for the safety of the child for the outing. They may blame themselves and their feelings of anxiety and distress will rise as the length of time the child is missing increases.
- Staff may be the understandable target of parental anger and they may be afraid. The nursery managers need to ensure that staff under investigation are not only fairly treated, but receive support while feeling vulnerable.
- The parents will feel angry and fraught. They may want to blame staff and may single out one staff member over others; they may direct their anger at the setting manager. When dealing with a distraught and angry parent, there should always be two members of staff, one of whom is the setting manger; the other should be the chairperson of the nursery committee or representative. No matter how understandable the parent’s anger may be, aggression or threats against staff are not tolerated, and the police should be called.
- The other children are also sensitive to what is going on around them. They too may be worried. The remaining staff caring for them need to be focused on their needs and must not discuss the incident in front of them. They should answer children’s questions honestly, but also reassure them.
- In accordance with the severity of the final outcome, staff may need counselling and support. If a child is not found, or is injured, or worse, this will be a very difficult time. The chairperson will use their discretion to decide what action to take.
- Staff must not discuss any missing child incident with the press without taking advice.
19 October 2020