What is safety in early childhood education?

What is safety in early childhood education? It should be the number one piority!

And safety in this context doesn’t just mean that the school is free of physical safety hazards. At FinlandWay® Schools we look at safety in a holistic manner, covering physical learning environment, social interaction and working culture. These three factors all work in connection with one another and together enable a safe learning environment.

Safety is one of FinlandWay®’s core values and visible in all areas: the culture we promote in our international network of preschools, the way learning spaces are built, and how we see children as valuable members of the community.

Safety is built on physically and socially safe environments, through teachers’ awareness and open discussion culture within the school and with the parents.

Enable safe, active learning

Physical safety is perhaps the easiest and clearest aspect of preschool safety, however it is not limited to physical structures.

Our pedagogical starting point is active learning, which means moving around in the classroom experimenting things and sometimes one’s own limits. This means that the environment needs to be designed and made safe for children to be physically active in it, not the other way round. There are multiple benefits to this – testing and practicing physical skills in a controlled environment also reduces accidents outside of the school.

Learning by doing requires extra attention from the preschool teachers. Children are visible and observed at all times, and the teachers and the classroom assistants are evaluating the ongoing activities.

Safety also provides an opportunity to learn social skills: rules of outdoor activities can be created together with the older children.

Prepare for all scenarios

Preparing for all kinds of scenarios as well as training and engaging the staff is crucial when it comes to dealing with unexpected situations and circumstances. For example a plan of action in a case of a fire must be in place, regularly reviewed and properly gone through with the staff, also through fire drills.

A plan for preventing bullying should also be created together with the teachers. Bullying doesn’t happen only in primary school – harmful behaviour and social problems might also occur in smaller children. FinlandWay® Schools see learning as a social activity and highly encourage peer-to-peer relations. Therefore having a bullying prevention programme is essential for a socially safe environment.

Social safety in a preschool setting

Social safety creates a trusting and safe atmosphere for children to try out their skills, to fail and try again. It also provides an opportunity to learn social skills, empathy and how to be respectful towards others.

Creating socially safe environments begins with the staff members’ attitudes towards each other and the children and their families. It starts with simple things such as modelling friendly and respectful behaviour between the management and the teaching staff – children have great intuition and capability to notice if something is wrong.

Showing the kids appreciation towards other children, hearing their opinions, and valuing children’s friendships and other relationships is also important. It creates trust and an open atmosphere for learning.

Failure is an integral part of learning even if it doesn’t always feel so good. That’s why children should feel safe trying new skills independently or with their peers.

Paying attention to hygiene in schools and educating children about this has been very topical during the past year as the Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all. FinlandWay® Schools around the world have followed recommendations from local authorities and our team of experts from Finland through the pandemic. But even under normal circumstances basic hand hygiene and overall cleanliness can go a long way in terms of preventing bugs and viruses from spreading within the school community and keeping children and school staff safe.

Transparency is key

Information about safety rules and different aspects of safety should be openly communicated and shared among the entire school community. Transparency is key! This means that the school policies and rules considering bullying, social media usage, social rules etc. must be clear for the staff and the families from day one.Insulting behaviour or harassment should not be tolerated or accommodated by any member of the school community.

Child Safeguarding training

As we at FinlandWay® take school safety extremely seriously, the school management and all teachers around the world are required to participate in FinlandWay® child safeguarding training sessions. We work together with an external child safeguarding expert with vast experience in the industry to ensure a high quality and neutral approach.

As part of our new school onboarding process the new school management goes through a thorough child safeguarding session covering a process check and a discussion with our expert. Initial teacher training also includes a separate safeguarding session to discuss limits, practices and culture of awareness. We believe – and there is scientific evidence to this – that sharing information and discussing all possible risks and even difficult topics decreases the likelihood of serious abuse.

As with a lot of things, and most importantly in a child-centric business, safe is always better than sorry!

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