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Dropping off and picking up before and after school

Safeguarding policies and procedures

Publication date October 2023
Parent walks their child into the school gates

Schools have a duty to safeguard children in their care. An important part of this is considering how to ensure that pupils arrive and leave premises safely.

Every school should have clear policies and procedures about children being dropped off and collected to and from the school site, as part of their wider safeguarding responsibilities. These policies and procedures should reflect the age of the pupils and any additional needs they might have.

The policy should be shared with parents and carers when a child joins the school. Parents and carers should read and sign to confirm they have understood the policy and agree to follow it.

We’ve put together some information about what schools need to consider in the dropping off and picking up policy and procedures in order to keep children safe both before and after school. This information is aimed primarily at primary schools, but some of it may be useful for secondary schools and schools for children with special educational needs, additional needs and disabilities.

> Read more about safeguarding and child protection in schools

Who is dropping off and who is picking up children?

A vital part of keeping children safe is ensuring the school knows who is responsible for dropping off and picking up a child.

On enrolment to the school, schools should ask parents and carers to provide the following information for each child:

  • the names and full addresses of parents and carers (including confirmation of parental responsibility or private fostering arrangements and any relevant paperwork)
  • home, work and mobile phone numbers
  • email addresses where appropriate
  • two authorised adult contacts who may be called in the event of the parents or carers being unobtainable or in the case of an emergency
  • information about any person who has been denied legal access to the child (with copies of any relevant legal documents).

The school should use a secure system to store this information and update it on an annual basis.

There is no law that states what age children may travel to and from school unsupervised. Parents and carers should make their decision based on their child’s maturity, ability and the safety and distance of the route to school.

Some schools advise parents and carers with children under the age of 8 to make sure they are accompanied by an adult or an older sibling.

To help parents and carers decide whether their child is ready to either stay at home or go out alone read our  Home or out alone guide.

There is no law determining the age at which a sibling can accompany a child to school. It is ultimately up to parents and carers to decide whether they feel this is appropriate.

Factors that parents and carers should take into account include:

  • the maturity of all the children involved
  • the length and nature of the journey home
  • the behaviour of all the children involved
  • the relationship between the children collecting or being collected.

Some schools prefer not to send a child home with a sibling unless the sibling is aged 14 or older.

Problems around who should be picking up or dropping off a child can arise when there are disputes between a number of adults claiming to have parental responsibility.

To help schools understand and deal with issues relating to parental responsibility each of the four nations has produced useful guidance.

What happens with late pick-ups, or if no one turns up?

Being late for pick up or not turning up at all can be a cause for concern, so procedures need to be in place to deal with this.

Every school should have a procedure for late collection that all staff, parents and carers are fully aware of.

In the event of lateness for collection the school should:

  • contact parents or carers
  • call emergency contacts if parents and carers cannot be reached so an authorised adult can come and collect the child
  • keep records of late collections.

If parents and carers have authorised someone else to collect the child, they may not always be aware the child is being collected late, so it’s important to keep them informed if this happens.

Persistent lateness might indicate that a parent is struggling to meet their child’s needs. Schools should contact parents or carers outlining their concerns. This should also be recorded as a safeguarding concern using the school’s safeguarding procedures.

If schools have ongoing concerns about a child’s welfare, they may need to make a referral to children’s social care so that the family can receive support.

> See our information about Safeguarding policies and procedures 

If parents, carers or other authorised people are not able to collect the child and have arranged for someone else to come instead, the parents or carers must notify the school as soon as possible. Identification may be required when the person comes to collect the child.

Some schools use a password system for collection of a child.

If nobody comes to collect the child, the school must make every effort to contact the parents, carers or authorised person whose details have been supplied. Schools may wish to stipulate a cut-off time after which they will apply child protection procedures and contact children’s social care.

Until the child is collected, they should stay at school in the care of two members of staff who have undergone the appropriate vetting and barring checks (one should preferably be the nominated child protection lead or deputy child protection lead).

School staff and volunteers should never:

  • take the child home with them
  • transport the child home
  • go in search of parents/carers.

The nominated child protection lead should make a full written report of the incident. This report should be added to the child’s safeguarding file. If appropriate, this report should also be shared with children’s social care.

Schools should not allow children to go with any unauthorised person without first getting permission from parents or carers.

If a child’s social worker is planning to collect them from school, this should be agreed in advance by the child’s parents and carers.

If an unauthorised person arrives to collect the child, the school should contact the child’s legal guardian. If the school is unable to make contact with the child’s legal guardian, or the legal guardian does not give their permission, the school should explain that they are unable to release the child to anyone else without authorisation from the child’s legal guardian.

If an unauthorised person refuses to leave the premises, becomes aggressive or violent or attempts an unauthorised removal of the child then it may be necessary to contact the police. This should be recorded as a safeguarding concern using the school’s usual safeguarding procedures.

What happens if there are safeguarding concerns?

A safeguarding concern can arise at any time during the school day, so it’s vital that all members of staff know exactly what to do in this event.

Responding to safeguarding concerns

If you think a child is in immediate danger, contact the police on 999. If you're worried about a child but they are not in immediate danger, you must share your concerns.

  • Follow the school’s child protection procedures. This should include information on how to respond to safeguarding concerns.
  • Contact your local child protection services. Their contact details can be found on the local authority website for the area in which the child lives.
  • Contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk. Our child protection specialists will talk through your concerns with you and give you expert advice.
  • Contact the police.

> Find out more about recognising and responding to abuse

 

 

References

If a child discloses that they don’t want to go home because of abuse or neglect, then the school should follow their child protection procedures.

If a child discloses abuse to you, it's really important to:

  • show children you care and help them open up
  • take your time and slow down
  • show you understand and reflect back what they’re saying.

> Read our tips on how to let children know you’re listening

> See our information about recognising and responding to abuse for more details

There may be times when the school is worried that the adult collecting a child is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or their behaviour otherwise suggests that they may not be in a fit state to safely look after the child.

In this case, the school should:

  • contact another family member or authorised person to collect the child
  • record the incident as a potential safeguarding concern.

Repeated instances of an adult appearing unfit to provide safe care should be discussed with children’s social care.

If the school has immediate concerns about a child’s welfare, and an alternative family member or authorised person is not available to collect the child, the school has a duty to prioritise the welfare and safety of the child.

The school should attempt to keep the child on the premises until they have received guidance or support from children’s social care or the police on what action to take.

If, despite the school’s efforts the parent insists on taking the child, then the school should:

  • contact the police
  • make a safeguarding referral to children’s social care
  • keep a full written report of the incident.

Who else needs to be involved?

Other external organisations may need to be involved in drop off or pick up from school. It’s important to check they are also fulfilling their safeguarding responsibilities.

The school’s procedures for dropping off and collecting pupils should apply to after school clubs on the school premises.

If your school allows other organisations to use your premises for activities or events, you have a responsibility to make sure they are taking the right steps to keep children safe.

This can include:

  • asking groups to share their safeguarding and child protection policy and procedures with you and check that these are adequate
  • sharing your own safeguarding and child protection policy with the groups and ask them to comply with it (agreement should be given in writing).

> See our information about letting third parties use your premises

Whether by school bus, taxi or public transport, home to school travel is an integral part of the school system.

While it is the local authority’s responsibility to make home to school travel arrangements it’s also important for schools to support the local authority to deliver their home to school travel functions and ensure the safeguarding of children.

The relevant government guidance for each of the four nations is as follows:

For a brief overview of home to school transport contracts and safeguarding risks the Local Government Association has published a useful school transport guidance note for England and Wales (Local Government Association, 2022).

> See our safeguarding training for bus and taxi drivers

References 

Department for Education (DfE) (2018) Understanding and dealing with issues relating to parental responsibility. [Accessed 12/10/2023].

Department for Education (DfE) (2023) Travel to school for children of compulsory school age. [Accessed 12/10/2023].

Department of Education (2023) Parental responsibility: updated guidance for schools (PDF). Bangor: Department of Education.

Education Authority Northern Ireland (2023) Home to school transport. [Accessed 12/10/2023].

Local Government Association (2022) School transport guidance note. [Accessed 12/10/2023].

Scottish Executive (2006) Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 guidance (PDF). Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Scottish Government (2021) School transport guidance 2021. [Accessed 12/10/2023].

Welsh Government (2021) Parents and parental responsibility: guidance for schools. [Accessed 12/10/2023].

Welsh Parliament (2022) Home to school transport - a guide for constituents (PDF). Cardiff: Welsh Parliament.