Keeping children safe

Written by: Matt Bawden | Published:

Working together to keep our children safe is crucial. With new safeguarding guidance for schools, Matt Bawden considers how safeguarding training and practice links into a school’s vision and values

This September sees the implementation of renewed statutory guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) on safeguarding.

As usual all our staff will have to be trained in Keeping Children Safe in Education (Part 1). The KCSIE guidance has been updated after consultation, with the new documents having been published in May.

Every year photocopiers everywhere strain to print all 20-plus pages for every member of staff, and in most cases a slightly beleaguered safeguarding lead tries to impress the key messages on to the assembled masses on the first INSET day of the new school year.

The success with which this is done depends on many things, not least the degree to which such views of safeguarding chime with the school’s vision and values.

So what do we need to get across and how can we do so both efficiently and effectively? In this article I offer one view of how safeguarding messages might best be communicated to staff.

Start with the key message

The guidance tells us that our approach must be child-centred and cooperative. Everyone has a role to play in safeguarding. At a time when people in authority are calling for yearly inspections of safeguarding, the documentation is stressing that all of us are responsible when it comes to keeping children safe and looking out for their welfare.

Furthermore, it may seem daft, but explain what is meant by safeguarding – some staff may not have a clear idea of everything that it encompasses in your school’s context. Be explicit. The new 2018 guidance lists the purposes of safeguarding as: protecting children from maltreatment; preventing impairment of children’s health or development; ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

Pick out the themes

If staff are to remember the key themes, they need to be relevant. The key themes are:

  • All staff can help identify concerns early, provide help and prevent situations from escalating.
  • All staff need to provide a safe environment.
  • All staff need to play their part in identifying those who might need early help.
  • Any staff member with concerns should follow the correct referral process.
  • All staff should be supported by a safeguarding lead in carrying out their safeguarding duties.
  • All staff should be aware of advice offered by the school’s designated safeguarding lead as they are most likely to have a more complete picture of the child/children. This responsibility is reinforced in the Teaching Standards.

Looking back over the themes above they can really be boiled down to: be aware, give voice to any concerns, listen to colleagues.

KCSIE and key school policies

All staff have a duty to have read KCSIE (Part One), and it says staff must also be aware of five other key school policies – the child protection policy, the behaviour policy, the staff behaviour/code of conduct policy, the safeguarding response to children missing education, and documentation on the role of the designated and deputy safeguarding leads. While they are signing to show they have read, or will read, Part One they might as well sign for the others.

The role of character education

The guidance says that staff must have regular training. There can be little worse than the moment an inspector asks a member of staff about safeguarding and that member of staff stumbles for an answer.

We learn from training when we connect with it and so any training needs to connect with this core message – and this is where social justice theories can help.

I like to use character education as my base – this is because it seems to chime with the school’s vision and values as well as explaining why our children matter.

Character education, as championed by organisations such as the Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues, points towards a view of social justice where a range of qualities (or virtues) matter in human development. These qualities are developed best through practice with others in a spirit of true friendship.

When we apply them we do so via our good sense or phronesis, as it can be difficult to know when to be more courageous at the expense of patience, or when to be curious rather than to stand back.

A member of staff who understands when, how and why to apply their curiosity to a child who seems a little preoccupied with something at home or to query a peer-on-peer concern will be more likely to do two things: actively support safeguarding in a way that keeps children safe and also answer effectively that question posed by her majesty’s inspector.

The key messages

For me that INSET training should go a little like this:

  • The reason we are here is to safeguard our children, to make sure they are happy, successful and flourishing.
  • To do this we need to be aware, be prepared to speak out and be willing to listen. We do this because it matters.
  • To safeguard we need to know what to look out for. In 2018 there will be new emphasis on sexual violence and county lines among other things. It makes sense to raise awareness here.
  • To safeguard we need to speak when we see things that need safeguarding. It matters because people can lack the ability to speak for themselves. At times everyone needs someone to help them.
  • To safeguard we need to listen, and this can involve discussing such things as behaviours and response.
  • We need to remember we are not in this alone. There are staff in the school who are there to support and offer advice. The designated safeguarding lead and deputies can offer help in the day-to-day and a lead in the case of an event. They are there to make sure you never need to deal with these alone.

Conclusion

In SecEd next term I’ll revisit safeguarding and intervention in light of the government’s emphasis on character education and schools increasingly going their own way with early intervention practice.

  • Matt Bawden is an assistant headteacher at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne and editor of the Association for Character Education eJournal Character Matters. Follow @ourschoolday. To read his previous articles and SecEd’s other best practice relating to character education, visit http://bit.ly/1OvQtqv

Further information

Keeping Children Safe in Education, Department for Education (last updated May 2018 – comes into force September 3): http://bit.ly/2bI2Zsm


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