We consider the welfare and safety of the children and young people in our care to have the highest priority. All staff have the necessary enhanced disclosure checks with ACCESSNI (www.accessni.gov.uk) to ensure they are within the necessary requirements to work with children and young people, and have clear guidelines as to their duties and responsibilities in respect of the care and supervision of the children.
At the start of every week, the Fire Evacuation Procedure is demonstrated to the participants. They are shown all fire exits in the building, evacuation routes, assembly points, and the Fire Alarm is sounded so that they know what it is like. It is made clear that except for the demonstration, all fire alarms are to be treated as real, and fire procedures to be followed at all times.
As Slemish Barn is set in countryside at the foot of Slemish Mountain itself, the usual temptations of pub and club are absent, and we have fewer of the things that might otherwise be a worry in a more urban setting. However we are conscious of our very great responsibility for the children and to their parents, and we have very firm rules about the childrens' activities outside of classes. Children are not allowed to leave the grounds of the house to go into the nearby fields on their own or without express permission from a member of staff. They must be in a group of at least three, and they must state exactly which part of the fields they will be in. Because we have a very high staff/participant ratio, there are always members of staff keeping an eye on the general behaviour of the children; however we also have 'House Parents' whose main responsibility is the pastoral care of the children both during the day and in particular at night. House parents supervise the sleeping arrangements, ensure that reasonable lights-out times according to age groups are observed, and that there is no inappropriate behaviour. Strict rules are imposed to ensure that boys and girls cannot impinge on the essential privacy of their respective accommodation areas, and we view any breaches (albeit they are rare) as serious matters, subject to the ultimate sanction of a sending home.
Because we take relatively small numbers in any one week, have a mixed range of ages and try to engender an informal, family atmosphere, we are keen to ensure that everyone is aware of the need to work together as a group, and we try to ensure that 'cliques' do not form. We keep a special eye on those who are younger or who seem quieter or shyer, and we stamp very firmly on any attempts at bullying, exclusion, teasing, ridiculing, or anything that could mar what should be a fun, stimulating experience. We try to emphasise to the children that they should feel unafraid to approach any member of staff to discuss anything they feel uncomfortable with, but in the event that a child feels unable to do so, and contacts a parent first to complain of anything to do with the holiday, whether it be to do with fellow participants, a member of staff or any other matter, you should inform us immediately so that we can investigate and as appropriate, remedy the matter. Please note Because text messaging is so popular now, and has been found to continue on to well past reasonable hours at night and, as a consequence, interrupted sleep for others, we have a policy of requiring children to hand in their mobile phones each evening at bedtime; they are allowed to collect them again in the morning after breakfast, but are required to leave them out of the class sessions.
The ultimate sanction we have is to send home anyone who cannot accept the codes of behaviour required.