Search Our Site

We have 3,755,298 registered online learners.
288 new learners so far today.

Teachers: How to Spot The Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

schedule 30th April 2019 by Virtual College in Safeguarding Last updated on 3rd May 2019

man and child

Teachers: how to spot the signs of child abuse and neglect

For any professional working with children it’s essential to be able to identify possible cases of abuse and neglect at home, but it’s especially true for teachers. Teachers are often one of the most consistently present figures in a child’s life after their parents, and likewise teachers often see more of their kids than their parents do. 

This means teachers are often in the best position to spot when something isn’t right, whether that’s in a child’s behaviour, a physical injury or problem, or even directly hearing of difficulties at home shared by the pupil. 

Children can be exposed to a myriad of problems and abuse in their home lives, and it’s essential to be able to recognise possible issues by being familiar with the signs. 

What to look out for 

Emotional abuse 

While every child is different and could have any of the following traits and still no be a victim of abuse, they can sometimes suggest emotional abuse going on at home. 

  • Severe speech disorders such as stuttering or delays
  • Slow emotional, mental or physical development
  • Aggressive or very anti-social behaviour
  • Violent writing or drawing
  • Low self-esteem
  • Very passive behaviour
  • Fear of teachers ringing home 



Neglect at home can often be spotted through a combination of physical and behavioural signs, from clinginess to an obvious lack of hygiene. However, it’s important to note that many of these signs can often be due to families struggling with low income.

  • Untreated medical conditions such as coughs or skin infections
  • Poor hygiene such as body odour or a dishevelled appearance
  • Inappropriate clothing, such as having no winter coat when it’s cold
  • Hunger in school, even begging or stealing food
  • Fatigue, falling asleep in classes
  • Clinginess and attention-seeking
  • Arriving early to school and leaving late  


Physical abuse 

It’s normal for most kids to occasionally get hurt in the course of playing and running around, but signs of physical abuse are usually distinct from these everyday injuries. 

  • Any injury with no valid explanation
  • Serious injuries that haven’t been seen by a GP or hospital
  • Injuries on parts of the body not normally at risk in general games and play
  • Jumpiness, edginess, or being generally fearful
  • Very afraid of getting into trouble
  • Overly eager to please


 Sexual abuse

This type of abuse often results in a range of physical and mental problems that can become very severe. 

  • The child is aware of age-inappropriate sexual activities or behaviour
  • Sexual activities manifest in words, play, or drawings
  • Repeated urine infections or stomach problems
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns from nightmares and fears with sexual connotations
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia
  • Depression and self-harm

Many of these signs can apply across multiple issues, so all can be the result of many different forms of abuse or neglect at home. It’s important to treat every child as an individual and take their personalities and natural tendencies into account when assessing for the possibility of abuse, but never overlook the possibility that something might be wrong. 

For more information and training, take a look at our range of child safeguarding courses

Virtual College Logo

Author: Virtual College

The latest training news brought to you by Virtual College. We create innovative digital learning experiences that inspire people to develop the skills they need to thrive in their careers; enhancing and enriching the organisations they work in. For 24 years, we have been developing and supplying collaborative, customer-focused e-learning technology for organisations world-wide.

Child Abuse and Neglect
popular resource

Child Abuse and Neglect Facts and Statistics

View our infographic for the latest facts and statistics on child abuse and neglect in the UK and how Virtual College can help support your organisation to build an effective training and development strategy to safeguard children in education.
ISO 9001:2015
Crown Commercial Service Supplier
LPI Accredited Learning Technologies Provider


+44 (0)1943 605 976

Virtual College

Marsel House


West Yorkshire

LS29 8DD

Awards for footer
Gold and silver award winners at the Learning Technologies Awards 2017 - including gold for excellence in the design of learning content.


We are in the process of moving to one Virtual College website. If you want to go back to a course, or start a course, bought from our old website then you may need to login to our original learning management system. Otherwise, please proceed to our new learning management system to return to your training.


You are already logged in. Click the button below to be taken to your LMS dashboard. Alternatively, click logout to leave the system.