Today the media has been full of the outcome of the Serious Case Review into Vanessa George, who abused toddlers at the nursery she worked at and was jailed at the start of this year. There were numerous recommendations from today’s report, but the whole matter leaves a very unpleasant taste and I’m sure we all feel for the families involved in what must have been a really difficult time.
As a parent of two, I know only too well that all parenting involves a liberal sprinkling of guilt and stories in the press like this make life even harder. The usual discussions seem to be flying around about the downside of nurseries, yet the fact remains that most nurseries offer excellent care and what is most reassuring to parents is that their child is not left in the sole charge of any one person. Good nurseries already have policies about mobile phones being left in staff lockers (after all, who can engage fully with a child whilst updating their facebook profile?). Whistleblowing policies are also on the increase; we certainly have a policy in each nursery to allow staff to express concerns about the behaviour of other team members, but we also have training to ensure staff are comfortable in reporting concerns of any sort about children, including safeguarding issues.
What should parents do to reassure themselves? Ask lots of questions. You have an absolute right to know how nurseries carry out their recruitment process and how staff are checked. You should also be able to see policies on any area you are interested in, including safeguarding and reporting concerns. Everyone working with children has a duty of care and is responsible for making sure they are not the one who turns a blind eye; we have learnt a lot from tragedies such as the Victoria Climbie case and huge progress has been made. This latest case shows that child safety must remain at the very front of what we do.