Missing Children (1.4)

At Reepham Nursery School, children’s safety is maintained as the highest priority at all times both on and off premises. Every attempt is made through carrying out the outings procedure and the exit/entrance procedure to ensure that the security of the children is maintained at all times. Both of these procedures have also been risk assessed. In the unlikely event of a child going missing, our missing child procedure is followed.


Child going missing on the premises

  • As soon as it is noticed that a child is missing the key person/staff alerts the setting Lead Practitioner.
  • The setting Lead Practitioner will carry out a thorough search of the building and outside area.
  • All children should be brought inside to the main hall and the register is checked to make sure no other child has also gone astray.
  • Doors and gates are checked to see if there has been a breach of security whereby a child could wander out.
  • If the child is not found, the parent is contacted and the missing child is reported to the police.
  • The settings Lead Practitioner will talk to the staff to find out when and where the child was last seen and records this.
  • The setting leader contacts the chairperson and reports the incident. The chairperson, with the management committee, carries out an investigation and may come to the setting immediately.

Child going missing on an outing

This describes what to do when staff have taken a small group on an outing, leaving the setting Lead Practitioner and/or other staff back in the setting.  If the setting Lead Practitioner has accompanied children on the outing, the procedures are adjusted accordingly.

What to do when a child goes missing from a whole setting outing may be a little different, as parents usually attend and are responsible for their own child.

  • As soon as it is noticed that a child is missing, staff on the outing ask children to stand with the Nursery School Lead Practitioner who will then carry out a headcount to ensure that no other child has gone astray. One staff member searches the immediate vicinity but does not search beyond that.
  • The Nursery Lead Practitioner will contact the police and report the child as missing.
  • The Nursery Lead Practitioner will contact the parent, who makes their way to the setting or outing venue as agreed. The setting may be the best place, as by the time the parent arrives, the child may have been returned to the setting.
  • Staff take the remaining children back to the setting.
  • In an indoor venue, the Lead Practitioner would contact the venue’s security who will handle the search and contact the police if the child is not found.
  • The Nursery Lead Practitioner will contact the chairperson and report the incident. The chairperson, on behalf of the management committee, carries out an investigation and may come to the Nursery immediately.
  • The Nursery Lead Practitioner, or designated staff member may be advised by the police to stay at the venue until they arrive.

The investigation

  • Staff will remain calm and they will try to avoid letting the other children become anxious or worried. They will also ensure that there are enough adults to maintain ratios.
  • The Nursery Lead Practitioner, together with the chairperson or representative from the management committee, speaks with the parent(s).
  • The chairperson and management committee, carry out a full investigation taking written statements from all the staff at the Nursery or who were on the outing.

The Nursery Lead Practitioner writes an incident report detailing:

  • The date and time of the report.
  • What staff/children were in the group/outing and the name of the staff designated/ responsible for the missing child.
  • When the child was last seen in the group/outing.
  • What has taken place in the group or outing since the child went missing.
  • The time it is estimated that the child went missing.
  • A conclusion is drawn as to how the breach of security happened.
  • If the incident warrants a police investigation, all staff co-operate fully. In this case, the police will handle all aspects of the investigation, including interviewing staff.  Children’s Social Care may be involved if it seems likely that there is a child protection issue to address.
  • The incident is reported under RIDDOR arrangements (see the Reporting of Accidents and Incidents policy); the local authority Health and Safety Officer may want to investigate and will decide if there is a case for prosecution.
  • In the event of disciplinary action needing to be taken, Ofsted will be informed.
  • The insurance provider will be informed.

Managing people

  • Missing child incidents are very worrying for all concerned. Part of managing the incident will be to try to keep everyone as calm as possible.
  • The staff will feel worried about the child, especially the key person or the designated carer responsible for the safety of that child during the outing. They may blame themselves and their feelings of anxiety and distress will rise as the length of time the child is missing increases.
  • Staff may be the understandable target of parental anger and they may be afraid. Nursery Lead Practitioners and/ or management committee need to ensure that staff under investigation are not only fairly treated, but receive support while feeling vulnerable.
  • The parents will feel angry, and fraught. They may want to blame staff and may single out one staff member over others; they may direct their anger at the setting Lead Practitioner.  When dealing with a distraught and angry parent, there should always be two members of staff, one of whom is the setting Lead Practitioner and the other should be the chairperson of the management committee or representative. No matter how understandable the parent’s anger may be, aggression or threats against staff are not tolerated, and the police should be called.
  • The other children are also sensitive to what is going on around them. They too may be worried.  The remaining staff caring for them need to be focused on their needs and must not discuss the incident in front of them.  They should answer children’s questions honestly but also reassure them.
  • In accordance with the severity of the final outcome, staff may need counselling and support. If a child is not found, or is injured, or worse, this will be a very difficult time. The Nursery School Management committee will use their discretion to decide what action to take.
  • Staff must not discuss any missing child incident with the press without taking advice.


This Policy was adopted at a meeting of:  Reepham Nursery School
Held in:  May 2018
Date to be reviewed:  May 2019
Signed on behalf of the management committee:  Rachael Jones – Chairperson.