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Scores of Safeguarding Complaints at After-School Clubs

Dozens of allegations of safeguarding failures in after-school clubs - including assaults, neglect and sexual abuse - have been uncovered by BBC News.

More than 80 referrals have been made about clubs in school grounds in the past five years, according to information requests.

In one incident, an eight-year-old boy had to clean his younger sister after she soiled herself. The Department for Education says every child should feel safe in after-school clubs.

Parents rely on breakfast and after-school clubs to provide childcare outside of school hours.

Many after-school clubs are not regulated as providers in England do not need to register with Ofsted unless they offer childcare for more than two hours.

They can register voluntarily with Ofsted in England but only 10% are inspected a year, meaning they may not be inspected for nearly a decade.

BBC News has learned of 84 safeguarding referrals made about incidents at after-school clubs in the past five years in England and Wales from freedom of information requests to local authorities.

These included an allegation of sexual abuse potentially involving multiple children at an after-school club in Devon and separate allegations of neglect, physical harm and unexplained bruising elsewhere. One child was found to have been dragged across a room by a staff member in Southampton.

BBC News has spoken to the mother of an eight-year-old black boy who was forced to clean his five-year-old sister against his wishes after she soiled herself at Greenleaf After School Club in Walthamstow, north London.

The boy told his mother he was made to do this in front of other pupils despite toilets being located nearby.

A staff member said: "I am not cleaning her, she is your sister, you clean her," according to the mother.

The girl, who has special educational needs, was left with excrement on her leg and without knickers or tights when she was picked up in near freezing conditions in November 2020.

Her mother said the incident was racist and an example of "adultification", where young black children are perceived as older than they are.

"I don't allow my child to see his sister's genitals, how on earth do they think that is acceptable?" the mother said. "They would never possibly ask a white child to do that."

She said the incident "humiliated" her children and has badly affected their relationship.

A review by an independent safeguarding consultant substantiated the incident - as did an investigation by the local authority.

The consultant told the mother the incident was "unacceptable" and concluded that the care received by the two children "fell far below" expectations.

The boy's mother says he also told her he had previously been asked to clean his sister at the club on two other occasions after she had wet herself.

BBC News has also learned that a different child was left for an hour in a chair after also soiling themselves at the club and was found with excrement on their hands.

The children's experiences are among several the BBC has learned of at after-school clubs which were substantiated by the local authorities investigating them.

The mother of the two siblings said it was difficult for parents to know about the quality of safeguarding in after-school clubs.

"After-school clubs are blind spots that need to be addressed," she said.

Greenleaf Primary School, which was responsible for the club where the boy was made to clean his sister, said: "We have apologised unreservedly to the parent of the children involved and more widely to all users of the Greenleaf After School Club. "This incident should not have happened, and we are determined to learn the lessons as we continue to provide our young people with the best start in life. "Greenleaf Primary is a school that prides itself on treating children from all backgrounds equally."
 

It added that staff had been provided with further training after the incident and that the two members of staff involved were "removed from dealing with the affected children".

However, the mother said she saw one of these two staff members in direct contact with her son when collecting her children on their return to using the club.

She also disputed that she had been provided with an unreserved apology and said she was being represented by the Good Law Project in legal action against the school.

A Department for Education spokesperson said in a statement: "Every child should feel safe in education, including at after-school clubs.

"That's why local agencies can use a range of legislative powers - including safeguarding, health and safety, and premises regulations powers - to protect children from harm."

 

Credited: Noel Titheradge, BBC News, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-61325477, 5th May 2022

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