We’ve enthusiastically shared our passion about the need and importance of safeguarding in education but the big question is how – how do we ensure effective safeguarding in schools? Allow me to share some best practices.
Let’s first go back a bit. The NSPCC websites shares the following advice:
Your school can safeguard children by:
· creating safe environments for children and young people through robust safeguarding practices
· ensuring that adults who work in the school, including volunteers, don't pose a risk to children
· making sure staff are trained, know how to respond to concerns and keep-up-to-date with policy and practice
· teaching children and young people about staying safe
· maintaining an environment where children feel confident to approach any member of staff if they have a worry or problem.
So, keeping this in mind – let’s explore how this might be achieved.
1. Creating safe environments
It’s expected that a school will have policies and practices in place to ensure a safe environment is created for the pupils, but what else can a school do?
Be a positive role model
Teachers and staff are an integral part of a school environment, so it is key to actively try and be a positive role model for the pupils. You should lead by example and show respect towards other staff members, the pupils and their families – don’t react in a way that is, or could be interpreted as, ridicule, bullying, or threatening. Remember, you may be the only positive role model they have!
Be careful with social networking
It isn’t advised to communicate with students via any social networking sites, unless authorised to do so, and then usually safe school accounts are provided. If you are authorised, be aware that such communication could send mixed messages to pupils about school policy regarding e-safety, or might open up the risk of allegations of inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour.
2. Ensuring staff don’t pose a risk
Is there a Safer Recruitment strategy? Staff Behaviour Policy? A clear allegations policy? These are just a few of the policies that are key to ensuring adults don’t pose a risk to children, and will aid staff in understanding what is regarded as appropriate and inappropriate conduct, and help them to work safely to protect pupils and themselves.
3. Training staff
Safeguarding is a vast, rapidly growing topic and there is a lot to absorb. Effective training is one of the best ways to ensure that you have the knowledge that is required.
You need the breadth
It used to be that there were four types of abuse you needed to know – physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. The list has now extended dramatically! Can you say you understand: child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, teenage relationship abuse, radicalisation, forced marriage, abuse associated with private fostering, or parental substance misuse? The list goes on, but start to get your head around these, and you will be well on your way to be able to spot signs of more types of abuse that could be occurring.
Are you aware of the Early Help process?
The aim of the process is to provide support to a child as soon as a problem emerges – this is more effective than if you react later. It’s achieved by working with children and families who are experiencing difficulties, as well as providing services for children who need extra help with learning or any social, emotional, behavioural, developmental and attendance needs.
Schools and colleges are expected to produce their own referrals for early help services and gain consent from parents for such referrals. Do you also provide breakfast clubs, nurture groups or build resilience through the curriculum? If so, you’re on the right track - these are all examples of Early Help.
If you are unsure about this, training courses are available.
4. Teaching children to stay safe
An important way to help promote children’s welfare and help prevent them getting into a safeguarding situation is to help increase their own awareness of the issues.
Make safeguarding part of the curriculum
To ensure children are aware of safeguarding topics, such as healthy teenage relationships and the dangers of technologies and social networking, safeguarding should be taught in the curriculum. It could help them in several ways, for example:
- To avoid dangerous, uncomfortable or illegal situations
- To trust their own judgement
- To recognise abusive behavior
If you want template lesson plans and resources including posters and wallet cards, NSPCC has a great bank available. Access it here.
5. Ensuring children feel confident to share worries
In many ways, this is part of being a positive role model. The child will share any concerns or worries with you if they feel safe with you and they can trust you.
How to respond to concerns
When a child is confiding in you, it is important to be calm and patient. It will likely be difficult for them to tell you their concerns, so give them their space and time to tell their story in their own way. Here are some pointers to remember:
- Be aware of your non-verbal messages, such as body language and facial expressions. Are you portraying patience, interest and understanding?
- Keep responses short, simple, slow and gentle – let them do the talking
- Avoid making comments or judgements about what is shared
- Tell the child what will happen next and be honest
And lastly – look after your staff too!
I want to stress that it isn’t just about the welfare of the children; we have to remember the welfare of the staff as well. Supporting them is essential to creating a safe environment, so ensure priority is given to the training, that they have access to clear policies and are supported through quality leadership and management.
Do any of these best practices ring true to you? Please share any that have worked for you.
These examples are featured in our Safeguarding in Education course. If they have grabbed your interest, you can purchase it here.