Why our child safety will always be annoyingly strict!
I found a review on Mumsnet about Perform the other day. The Mum was waxing lyrical about us and how great our classes are. Her only one complaint was that our Safety Procedures were a little too strict and somewhat annoying.
It transpired that the child's father (and her husband) had tried to pick up the daughter a few weeks before but, because we had no record of him as an authorised adult, the teachers wouldn't let him take his daughter.
The poor Dad had to wait 40 minutes before the Mum was tracked down to give her consent for her husband to collect their child.
Before I started Perform, I worked for other drama schools and, despite most having a fairly 'relaxed' attitude to child protection, I was always obsessed about fulfilling the responsibility of being 'in loco parentis' for other people's children. As a result, I started to develop my own safety procedures to try to ensure that the children would be a safe as possible while in my care.
Then, when I set up Perform 13 years ago, I had to be registered as a 'fit person' at every local authority in which we had a venue (this is no longer the case). As part of this vetting procedure, I went to go on lots of child safety best practice courses and these courses helped me further refine the policies that I think make us among the safest after-school activities you can attend.
For example, before every class we do a comprehensive risk assessment of the venue making sure that it is really safe and hazard free. Every child has a detailed registration form with all relevant health and contact details at hand, should there be a problem. One of the teachers is always a first aider. And we have a strict and detailed procedure for ticking children in and out, part of which only allows children to go home with the people that their primary carer has told us about in advance - even if it's obviously the father!
Now I have my own children, the first questions I ask about when I take them to an after-school class are health and safety-related. Is it safe? Are the teachers experienced, not just in their chosen field, but if there was an accident could they deal with it properly? It sounds boring but the consequences of these matters not being properly attended to don't bear thinking about.
At Perform, I've always taken the view that these issues are essential to have right if we are asking parents to feel comfortable leaving their children with us. And yet, I've found this is rarely the case at most of our competitors. If you don't believe me, ask for their child protection policies and procedures and see what you get.
So we are annoyingly strict at Perform, but I am proud of this. And, in fairness, the mum ended her review by saying that she was glad about it too!
That was good to hear because we'll never ever compromise on those standards. After all, we are not only committed to offering the best drama classes, but the safest ones too!