Important to remember

General rules

  • Try to ensure that there is at least one adult per group of children of the same sex as the children involved.
  • Try to ensure that there is at least one adult of each sex with mixed groups.
  • All activities should be planned to involve at least two adults.
  • Adults should avoid being left alone with children.
  • All adults working directly with children should be subject to safe recruitment processes (“vetting”), sign up to the code of conduct and have completed safeguarding awareness training.

Changing rooms and showering facilities

Children are particularly vulnerable in changing areas due to various stages of dress/undress and because they are less supervised than at many other times. The risk of child-to-child problems, such as bullying, is also present when coaches or staff members are not supervising.

Coach-educators should consider:

  • Where facilities are used by both adults and children at the same time, there must be access to separate changing, showering and toilet areas.
  • Under no circumstances should adults be undressed in front of children in changing rooms.
  • Adult staff and volunteers must not change or shower at the same time as children using the same facilities.
  • For mixed- gender activities, separate facilities must be available for boys and girls.
  • If a child feels uncomfortable changing or showering in public, then no pressure should be placed on him/her to do so. Instead, he/ she should be encouraged to do so at home.
  • If disabled children need to use facilities, make sure they are accessible, and the disabled child and his/her carer are involved in deciding if and how they should be assisted. Make sure the child can consent to the assistance that is offered.
  • The use of mobile phones and/or photographic equipment with video recording capabilities by staff and volunteers and children themselves should be prohibited in general and should not be used under any circumstance in changing rooms.
  • Where no changing facilities are available, children and their parents or guardians should be made aware of this prior to practice and advised to make alternative arrangements and take appropriate additional clothing.
  • Parents should be discouraged from entering changing rooms unless it is necessary. In such circumstances, only a parent of the same sex as the children may enter the changing room and he/she should let the coach-educator know about this in advance. At least one member of staff of the same sex as the children involved should be present with the parent when other children are in the changing room.
  • Adult staff and volunteers, especially those of the opposite sex, should not be in the changing room when children are undressed.

Information for children

Age-appropriate information should be given to children to empower them so that they know who to speak to if they have any concerns. It is important they understand that they have the right to:

  • have fun and develop their football skills.
  • feel safe and happy.
  • be protected from bad behaviour, from adults or other children.
  • talk and be listened to, especially if they have concerns or do not feel safe.
  • know where to go for help or who to talk to if they are scared or worried about something.
  • be looked after if there is an accident or injury.

In facilitating this discussion with children, decide who would be the best person to lead this conversation. It may be the school welfare officer (or equivalent) or another staff member or an expert local NGO partner. Always ensure that at least two experienced adults conduct the session together. It is important children know that if they are worried about something, or if they do not feel safe, there are many people who can help. Encourage them to always talk to an adult whom they trust.

Further information

Some of the Football for Schools life-skills sessions focus on topics such as family life and help-seeking. It is possible therefore that in the process of leading one of the sessions, the coach-educator may be told something or come to suspect something which causes them to worry about the welfare or safety of a child. If concerned about someone’s safety, the coach-educator should always follow the advice in their school’s child protection/safeguarding policy and code of conduct.

Use your best judgement and always put a child’s best interests first. Consider the need for the child’s safety and which adults need to be involved to help keep the child safe. Do this in a way that respects people’s need for privacy whilst also seeking support and taking action.

Further information on safeguarding children in football visit the FIFA Guardians website.