Keeping safe outside of school
Sports, clubs and other activities are a great way to learn new skills and make new friends. Whether it's a drama class or martial arts club, arts and crafts or band practice, hobbies and activities can be an important part of growing up and learning to be more independent.
It's important to make sure your kids are safe and happy, wherever they are. We've got advice to help keep your childen safe at their club, sport or activity, so they can focus on training, learning and having fun. We also have lots of information about staying safe at school.
Laws to protect children in sports, clubs and other activities
Any club or organisation working with children or young people has a responsibility to keep them safe.
We outline key things to look for when finding the right club or activity for your child in our checklist below. If you’re an organisation working with children, try NSPCC Learning’s Safeguarding Checklist tool to check your policies will keep children and young people safe. Our Child Protection in Sport Unit also provide a self-assessment tool specifically for sports organisations.
It’s important to be aware of the loophole in the law that may put kids at risk of sexual abuse in clubs, sports and other activities. Although it’s illegal for teachers, care workers and youth justice workers to have sex with 16 and 17 year olds, this still isn’t the case for everyone with a position of power over young people – including sports coaches, volunteers and youth group leaders.
What to look for in a club, sport or other activity
It's important to look for a club, sport or activity that takes the safety and wellbeing of your child seriously. Always check whether the club or organisation is accredited or otherwise affiliated to a body (e.g. a sports governing body or national voluntary sector or faith organisation) as this should mean they have the right safeguarding policies and procedures in place.
Even if they're accredited, there are some key things to look for to ensure they take children's safety seriously.
- A welfare or child protection officer you can contact about safeguarding or with any concerns.
- Clear procedures and processes for raising complaints and concerns.
- Written standards of good practice – like a code of conduct or code of behaviour. This should outline the boundaries that staff and volunteers should respect when working with children and young people and should address things like discrimination and bullying and social media behaviour.
- Effective consent and emergency processes. You should receive a form asking for your consent to the activity, for your contact details, and any relevant medical information about your child from the club or organisation.
- A safe recruitment process for staff and volunteers, including vetting. This means they have appropriate references, criminal records checks and the right technical qualifications for the activity.
- Staff and volunteers are trained in safeguarding (child protection). NSPCC Learning provides information and online courses if you work with children.
- Children and young people are suitably supervised (based on their age, ability, the activity and venue) by adults who are trained to care for them.
- The activity takes place in a safe environment – and there are separate changing areas for children and adults.
Remember, it’s never wrong to ask for more information when it comes to children's safety, wellbeing and safeguarding. Organisations should welcome questions about their activities and policies and should have answers on hand if you ask.
Our Child Protection in Sport Unit goes into more detail about each of our checklist points in their information for parents and carers. NSPCC Learning provides more information about safeguarding in other organisations.
Advice for parents
Even if the organisation seems safe, it’s best to keep talking to your child and making sure they’re enjoying their experience. If something’s wrong, it’s important they feel like they can talk to you about it.
Staying involved in your child’s activities – whether that’s sports, performing arts or any activity they take on – helps keep them safe and means you can support them with whatever they need.
It can help to consider what you want your child to get out of the activity. Is this also what they want? What do they need from you? You can help to make sure their experience is positive by taking an interest and being supportive from the sidelines whatever the result.
When choosing a club or activity with your child, it’s important to make sure they have clear health and safety procedures in place.
Clubs and organisations will list important sports and safety equipment if it’s needed – particularly for outdoor activities like the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, or contact sports like rugby, martial arts or boxing. Read through all the information you receive carefully and make sure your child has everything they need to stay safe, warm and dry.
Children and young people’s health should always come first – however important the match, game or event may feel. If they aren’t getting time for rest or recovery this could have a knock-on effect for their health and wellbeing.
When your child is travelling or staying somewhere overnight with a club or organisation it’s essential you’re clear on the safeguarding procedures to keep your child safe.
- consent forms
- emergency contact details
- clear, pre-agreed sleeping arrangements
- your child can contact you if they want to.
Concerned about a child?
If you're worried about a child, always talk to someone. If there is something wrong, you may not just be helping one child, you could be helping many children who may be at risk.
If you think:
Bullying is never OK – whether it's another child or it's someone in a position of authority.
If you’ve seen something that worries you like bruises or marks, it’s better to be safe and let someone know.
Coaches and group leaders are in a position of power over young people, which sometimes they abuse.
If you notice a child doesn’t have equipment, or they’re not being fed or looked after, let someone know.
Raising your concerns to a club or organisation
It’s important to put your child first and to trust your instincts. If something’s wrong, you aren’t just helping them by reporting it, you’re helping everyone keep kids safer.
If there’s something wrong and you’re concerned, follow the organisation’s guidelines for recording and reporting concerns, and speak to their welfare officer. Our Helpline can provide expert advice and support - call us on 0808 800 5000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our online form.
Work or volunteer with children?
Test your organisation
Put your organisation to the test with our free online tool and check your safeguarding processes are up to scratch.
Safeguarding in sports
Whether you’re a coach, a club manager, or another role working with children, our Child Protection in Sport Unit has advice to help keep children safe.
Working with children?
NSPCC Learning are leaders in safeguarding and child protection - check out their guides, advice, and online courses to train you and your staff.
Getting started with safeguarding
NSPCC Learning have developed a step-by-step guide for voluntary and community sector organisations to help keep children safe. Download to get started.
More advice and support
Depression, anxiety and mental health
Advice on how to spot the signs your child may be struggling with their mental health, and what you can do to help.