Guide for chaperones
What does the law say?
All children who perform on stage, in television, films, commercials, work in paid or professional sport or as models, have their welfare and safety protected by
- The Children and Young Persons Act 1933
- The Children and Young Persons Act 1963
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Act 1999
- The Children (Performances and Activities) (England) Regulations 2014
The law states that the chaperone is acting 'in loco parentis'. They should exercise the care which a good parent might be reasonably expected to give that child. The child will be working in an adult environment, you need to ensure they understand what is expected of them, taking into account their age and experience.
You also need to take account and be aware of:
- the child's concentration span
- their exposure to adult conversations
- peer pressure
- relationships with other adults and children in the production
- health and safety issues on stage or on set (eg smoking policy)
Occupying a child - their concentration span
The concentration span of a child is far shorter than that of adults (depending on age). Whereas a child's energy level is far higher than an adults. You need to be able to occupy, or enable the child to occupy, their non-performance or non-tutoring time. This is especially important during filming and when on location. You could be hanging about during filming and the child could be confined to a caravan for long periods due to the weather. So you could include physical activities or encourage the child to rest and quietly read a book.
Education and tutoring
The child may not actually be in school, but that doesn’t mean the hours they are tutored are less important than those spent at school (three hours maximum tutoring required on a school day).
Children do not have the communication skills of adults. It can often be difficult for them to communicate their feelings in a way in which adults understand, so you will be the intermediary between them and the production company. You need to be able to tell when the child is ill, tired or upset. Never disregard a child's needs in order to meet the producer's schedule.
You must always be aware of bullying as it can be very subtle. It's easy to spot a physical fight or sideways kick. It's not so easy to spot the odd word or joke directed towards one particular child. This sort of behaviour should be stopped immediately otherwise it could affect both the child and the production.
Good communication and negotiation skills with the child or the variety of adults involved in the production is vital.
Don't allow children to fool around as electrical equipment such as leads, sound equipment and cameras can all be dangerous.
Child protection policy
You should be aware if the company has a child protection policy. Find out the nominated contact person with child protection training or experience. All production staff, actors, cast, crew and chaperones (including dressers and make up) should be mindful of their conduct around children. Any unnecessary physical contact should be avoided. It could be misunderstood, either by the child or by others. You should never leave a child alone with other adults or put yourself in a vulnerable position.
Report to a senior member of the production (or nominated child protection person) any:
- unusual or disturbing behaviour by a peer or an adult member of the production
- unusual or disturbing comments by a child about a peer or an adult member of the production
Where appropriate refer them onto Children's Services. In serious situations or in an emergency, call the police.
If an allegation is made against a chaperone, member of the production, cast or helper, full cooperation will be sought from those in charge, the individual member of staff and the licensing authority.
In the case of serious allegations, the member of staff in question may be suspended immediately until the investigation is over. That member of staff may not have unsupervised contact with any child. This could mean they are excluded from the theatre, rehearsal rooms, location, film set etc.