Nursery Management

Safeguarding in Early Years – Try this quiz

  • Safeguarding in Early Years – Try this quiz

Effective safeguarding can involve difficult decisions – try this quiz, devised by Abi Holmes, to test your thinking in some challenging situations…

How it works

Below, you’ll find four different early years safeguarding scenarios, with three different options for the next steps you should take in each situation.

For every scenario, the next steps are the course of action you would take after raising your concerns with your designated safeguarding lead and recording your observations and the actions you are going to take.

In some cases, there may be more than one correct answer for a possible course of action.

Scenario 1

A teaching assistant has noticed that a boy will only play with other boys and not girls. He is dismissive of female staff and only follows instructions given by male members of staff.

He is part of a family that pays careful and strict observance to their cultural traditions and religious customs.

He recently screamed at and hit a little girl who tried to play with him outside in the garden. The little girl was very upset and was left with a red mark on her arm.
He denied hitting her and said he told her to go away because she is a girl.

At four years old, we would not expect that a child would have such set ideas about who to play with or have such strong gender preferences. Since another pupil has been injured, the situation needs to be dealt with.

However, staff may fear they do not have appropriate awareness and appreciation of the values and beliefs of a group that they don’t belong to.

This makes it hard to challenge things, as they are concerned about accusations of racism or cultural inappropriateness.

What are the next steps?

A) Meet with the boy’s family face-to-face to discuss concerns and make recommendations for any relevant referrals and appropriate support.

B) Tell the family that they will have to find alternative nursery care for their son due to his inappropriate behaviour.

C) Meet with the little girl’s family and tell them that you are worried about the behaviour of the little boy and religious beliefs of his family and that you will make sure he never hits her again.

Scenario 2

A child with cerebral palsy is prone to trips and falls. She frequently has knocks, bumps and bruises, but seems to bounce back and does not worry about them.

She has a K-frame walker which helps her stability and mobility, but her parents often forget to bring it and so she frequently manages without it.

She should wear leg braces and hand splints to help reduce muscle tightness and joint stiffness, but she is frequently without them because her family say that she does not like them.

There has been an increase in the number of bruises she has been seen with and some of these are on her thighs and the top of her arms, as well as her chest. These are areas that you would not ordinarily expect to see bruising, and staff know that a child with SEND is three times more likely to suffer abuse than their able-bodied peers and may be less able to explain what is happening to other adults.

What are the next steps?

A) Ask the physiotherapist and occupational therapist to assess the current situation and make recommendations for care and support of her physical needs. 

B) Make a referral to children’s social care as the bruising appears to be in places of concern and is also increasing over time. 

C) Meet with the family to discuss concerns around her not having the K-frame or braces and splints at nursery and explain the importance of this to encourage them to ensure that she has them. 

Scenario 3

Staff at a nursery have noticed a boy always arrives sitting in a pushchair with a smartphone. When he is collected, he is put back in the pushchair and given sugary snacks and the phone for his walk home with his Granny.

The child told a play therapist that he has been watching fighting like daddy and demonstrated what appears to be him acting out cage fighting.

Too much screen time has a negative impact on children and without suitable parental controls, there is a risk he could access inappropriate material. 

Mum and Dad both work full time, Dad on night shifts and Mum during the day. Granny takes care of the child during the day, but has health concerns and so finds it difficult to keep up with his demands.

All three caregivers want the best for him and feel that they are doing everything they can to give him a happy life while meeting their financial needs. 

Advice from staff is always gratefully accepted, but does not seem to be acted on and no change in behaviour has been noted, so concerns remain. Mum, Dad and Granny are all under pressure, making it difficult to prioritise the needs of the child during decision-making.

What are the next steps?

A) Support the child through play therapy to help him share any concerns he has and to help him recognise dangers online

B) Meet with Granny to discuss any support that she might need and to help her consider alternative distractions and how to offer healthy snacks for the journey to and from nursery. 

C) Meet with parents to discuss the concerns around online risks and harm and to offer support and any relevant referrals to other agencies for additional interventions as necessary.

Scenario 4

A girl with additional needs and Down’s Syndrome is fostered and lives in a family with five children. She is very well-settled and presents as a happy child with a keen sense of adventure.

Her communication relies on Makaton signs and symbols and she has had struggles with swallowing following open heart surgery, so is currently PEG-fed.

The foster mum is finding the additional support needs of the child a challenge and has been frustrated with PEG feeding. Using Makaton has been an incredible improvement to encourage communication, but the foster mum is finding it tough to concentrate on developing this.

Staff at the nursery are concerned that the foster mum is beginning to resent having to manage the extra care needs that this little girl has and that she may also be feeling guilty about this.

Acknowledging the pressure that comes with care needs can make it harder to recognise the cause for concern that struggling to meet these needs brings.

What are the next steps?

A) Tell the foster mum that you are worried about her and think she may need to stop fostering for now.

B) Discuss concerns in the next Pupil Education Planning Meeting and with the allocated social worker, call for a new meeting if one is not scheduled soon.

C) Make sure the little girl knows that her foster mum is struggling so that she can try her best to be good and not cause any stress. 


Scenario 1: A
Scenario 2: A, B, C
Scenario 3: A, B, C
Scenario 4: B

Note: Whilst we have simplified the safeguarding next steps for the purpose of this quiz, it’s important to remember that each of these scenarios is complex and that taking the recommended action may require additional intervention and support.

If you are ever in any doubt about the safety of a child, you should always speak to your Designated Safeguarding Lead and can consult Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance for official information and advice.

Download a longer, PDF version of this quiz by clicking ‘Download Now’ at the top of this page.

Virtual College provides safeguarding training courses for the education sector, focusing on modern-day challenges which can apply when working with children including early years and adults in any size of organisation.