Children’s safety is maintained as the highest priority at all times, both on and off the premises. Every attempt is made through carrying out the outings procedure and the exit/entrance procedure to ensure the security of children is maintained at all times. In the unlikely event of a child going missing, our missing child procedure is followed.
Child goes missing on the premises
As soon as it is noticed that a child is missing, the Manager is alerted immediately.
The Manager will carry out a thorough search of the building and playground.
The register is checked to ensure that no other child has also gone astray.
Doors and gates are checked to see if there has been a breach in security, whereby a child could wander out.
A co-ordinated search will be made and if the child is still not found then the child’s parent is contacted and the missing child reported to the police.
The Manager talks to the staff to find out when and where the child was last seen and records this.
The Manager and staff will co-operate with any internal or police investigation until the child is found.
Child goes missing on an outing
As soon as it is noticed that a child is missing, staff on the outing ask the children to stand with their designated person, and carry out a headcount to ensure that no other child has gone astray.
One staff member searches the immediate vicinity but does not search beyond that.
The outing leader (if not the Manager) contacts the Manager and reports the incident.
The outing leader contacts the police and reports the child as missing.
The Manager contacts the parent, who makes their way to the setting or outing venue as agreed with the Manager. The setting is usually advised as the best place as, by the time the parent arrives, the child may have been returned to the setting.
Staff take the remaining children back to the setting.
In an indoor venue:
In an indoor venue, the staff contact the venue’s security who will handle the search and contact the police if the child is not found.
The outing leader may be advised by the police to remain at the venue until they have arrived.
Staff will keep calm and not let the other children become anxious or worried.
The Manager speaks with the parent(s).
The Manager carries out a full investigation, taking written statements from all the staff/adults present on the outing.
The outing leader writes an incident report detailing the date and time of the report, what adults/children were on the outing, and the name of the person designated responsible for the missing child, when and where the child was last seen, what has taken place since the child went missing and a conclusion is drawn as to how the breach of security happened.
If the incident warrants a police investigation, all staff will 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 arrangements (see Health and Safety, Recording and Reporting of Accidents and Incidents Policy). 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.
The insurance provider 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 designated adult responsible for the safety of the missing child for that 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 Manager will 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, or they may direct their anger towards the Manager. When dealing with a distraught and angry parent, there should always be two members of staff, one of whom is the Manager and the other a nominated member of staff. 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 Manager will use their discretion to decide what action to take.
Staff must not discuss any missing child incident with anyone, including the press, without taking advice.