Out of School Alliance - Help and Support for Out of School Clubs

Mobile phones in out of school clubs

Some people are coming away from EYFS training courses with the belief that mobile phones are banned in all childcare settings, including out of school clubs. This is not strictly true.

The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage states only that settings on the Early Years Register should cover the use of mobile phones and cameras in their Safeguarding policy:

"The safeguarding policy and procedures must include an explanation of the action to be taken in the event of an allegation being made against a member of staff, and cover the use of mobile phones and cameras in the setting." [para 3.4]

However the same paragraph also says that your safeguarding policy should be 'in line with' the guidance of your Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB). Therefore if your LSCB has a particular stance on mobile phones you would have to abide by this.

There is no mention of the use of mobile phones or cameras in the statutory guidance for settings on the Compulsory Childcare Register.

Why there isn't a blanket ban on mobile phones

In her review of the Early Years Foundation Stage, Dame Clare Tickell explained very clearly why there should be no blanket ban on mobile phones and why it was up to the managers of individual settings to decide on whether and how mobile phones should be used. She recognized that not only are mobile phones needed on outings, but also many settings (such as out of school clubs) operate from community halls, mobile classrooms, etc, where there are no landline facilities so a mobile phone is the only means of contact.
For Dame Tickell's full explanation see below.

Addressing safeguarding concerns

The main concern with mobile phones is the possibility that their cameras could be used to take images for abusive practices. A simple ban on taking photographs at your club with anything other than the club camera addresses this issue.
Download our sample safeguarding policy

Addressing concerns about staff behaviour

A secondary concern is staff could be distracted from their duties by texting or making personal calls during club sessions. This is a staff conduct issue and how you deal with this is down to your own management style.

You could trust your staff to behave professionally and only intervene if you notice someone abusing your trust by making frequent, non-essential calls during work time; or you could have a hard and fast rule that staff cannot use their mobiles at all during working hours. Or you could have something in between, for example staff can use their phones for brief essential calls, but aren't allowed to carry them around with them.

This would be a good topic to raise for discussion at your next staff meeting.

Children have phones too

When thinking about the use of mobile phones within your club, remember that out of school clubs are rather different from nurseries in that some of the children will have mobile phones of their own. Children like to play games on their phones, and parents like to be able to contact their children, so a total ban on using mobile phones at your club would be unpopular. However if you have a ban on taking photographs on mobile phones (which is what we would recommend) that must apply to the children as well.

Parents have phones too

A tricky area is parents using mobile phones. Clearly, if you have a ban on taking any photographs at the club, this will also apply to them. But parents often have their phones out as they arrive, or while they wait for their children to collect their belongings. Surely this is OK if they are just chatting or texting? In theory, yes - it is the use of camera phones that is the problem, not using it to chat or text - but in practice, are your staff really able to monitor each individual parent's use of their phones, whilst also supervising the children? In many cases it is much simpler to have a complete ban on parents using their phones within the setting so that you and your staff don't need to make a judgement call each time. Understandably many parents are resistant to bans of this nature, so you as a provider will need to decide whether to implement such a rule and how to present it to the parents.

Conclusion

So, to recap, the current situation regarding the use of mobile phones is as follows:

  • There is no statutory ban on using mobile phones or cameras at out of school clubs, however you may choose to do so if it is appropriate for your setting.
  • There is a statutory requirement in EYFS that you must consider this issue and record your club's approach in your Safeguarding policy.
  • There is a statutory requirement in EYFS that your Safeguarding policy should be 'in line' with the guidance of your Local Safeguarding Children Board — which would include any guidance that they might have on the use of mobile phones.
  • There is also no requirement for you to have a separate Mobile Phone Policy, however you may decide that it would be useful to have one in order clarify to your staff in what circumstances they may use their mobile phones.
    Download a sample Mobile Phone policy


Footnote
The full quotation from the report by Dame Clare Tickell is as follows:

"As a result of the Plymouth Serious Case Review some have called for mobile phones to be banned in early years settings. Inappropriate usage of mobile phones includes instances where phone calls or texts take practitioners' attention away from supervising young children, or where camera phones are used to take images of children or support abusive practice. However, banning mobile phones would create difficulties, for example where children are taken on outings, or where a setting is based in a hall without phone facilities. It is, and should remain, the responsibility of owners, leaders and managers of early years settings to ensure that their setting is a safe place for children that meets the requirements of the EYFS. I would expect safeguarding policies to set out clearly how mobile phones should or should not be used in settings, reflecting the individual circumstances of individual settings, and ensuring that their usage is properly monitored. Therefore, I do not recommend banning mobile phones in early years settings."
[para 4.8 The Early Years: Foundations for life, health and learning]