Recommended adult to child ratios for working with children

Last updated: 04 Sep 2018 Topics: Safeguarding and child protection

Guidance on appropriate levels of supervision for children and young people

When working with groups of children or young people it's important that there are enough adults to provide the appropriate level of supervision.

Staffing and supervision ratios can sometimes be difficult to judge. It’s important that you have enough staff and volunteers to ensure children are safe – and that these adults are suitable to undertake various tasks as needed.

It may not always be possible to stick to recommended ratios. However, every effort should be made to achieve the best level of supervision of children at all times.

Supervision

Supervision levels will vary depending on the children's age, gender, behaviour and the abilities within your group.

They will also vary depending on:

  • nature and duration of activities
  • competence and experience of staff involved
  • requirements of location, accommodation or organisation
  • any special medical needs
  • specialist equipment needed.

Taking these into consideration you can then make decisions about the competence and experience of staff and how many adults you need.

Organisers should know whether adults need to have a vetting and barring check, and be clear about any additional safeguards which need to be put in place, for example:

  • ensuring adults who do not meet the criteria for a vetting and barring check are being supervised at all times
  • making sure all adults who have contact with children understand and agree to follow your safeguarding policy and procedures.

If you’re working within the performing arts and children are being chaperoned, you should make sure the relevant licences are in place.

> Find out more about safeguarding in the performing arts

Staff and volunteers

Staff and volunteers will need to have:

  • an understanding of their responsibility to keep children and young people safe
  • insurance for certain activities
  • codes of practice which they understand and agree to follow.

Adult to child ratios

We recommend having at least two adults present when working with or supervising children and young people. We recommend the following adult to child ratios as the minimum numbers to help keep children safe:

  • 0 - 2 years - 1 adult to 3 children
  • 2 - 3 years - 1 adult to 4 children
  • 4 - 8 years - 1 adult to 6 children
  • 9 - 12 years - 1 adult to 8 children
  • 13 - 18 years - 1 adult to 10 children

We recommend having at least two adults present, even with smaller groups.

When young people are helping to supervise younger children, then generally, only people aged 18 or over should be included as adults when calculating adult to child ratios.

In England, the Department for Education publishes guidance (DfE, 2017) for early years providers which sets out statutory requirements about adult to child ratios. The guidance sets out situations when 16 and 17 year–olds may be included in the adult to child ratios.

Staff to pupil ratios in schools

There is no statutory guidance for schools on adult to child ratios for classrooms. Schools are expected to carry out their own risk assessment to determine appropriate levels of supervision for each class size at the beginning of each academic year. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) does provide guidance on class sizes and advises schools to take children with special educational needs and emotional and behavioural into account when determining staff to child ratios.

There is no statutory guidance around break and lunchtime supervision but schools will need to consider the layout of the playground and number and ages of the children when carrying out their risk assessment to decide on ratios.

Toilet ratios

If the group has both boys and girls, there should be at least one male and one female responsible adult supervising visits to the toilet.

Adults who haven't previously volunteered and haven't had the necessary vetting checks shouldn't be left alone with children or take them to the toilet unaccompanied.

In larger groups of children, encourage bigger groups to take a comfort break together. For example, with a ratio of two adults to 10 children where one adult supervises hygiene duties and the other supervises safety and a head count.

First aid ratios

We recommend that at least one adult is trained in first aid.

If you're running one-off events you will need to carry out a first-aid and medical risk assessment. Many organisations provide medical services but ensure the organisation you select is competent, trained in first aid and able to cope with the demands of your event.

Travelling ratios

When travelling with children and young people, the recommended adult to child ratio can vary depending on:

  • size of the group
  • age of the children and their behaviours
  • size of the vehicle that you are travelling in.

If you are travelling in a car, it is recommended that there is one adult driving and one adult supervising the children. Larger groups and vehicles will require more adults to ensure adequate supervision. Think about having one adult driving and at least 1 adult supervising the children, depending on the size of the group.

References

Department for Education (DfE) (2017) Early years foundation stage statutory framework (EYFS) (PDF). London: Department for Education (DfE).