The children’s commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson, has published an in-depth report based on the work of six schools considered to have “well-developed” safeguarding practices.
Entitled Feeling Safe, Keeping Safe, the publication identifies seven “safety principles” of their work.
Among the keys to excellent practice are strong communication networks between schools and local authorities, a shared responsibility for child protection issues among all staff, and on-going professional training.
The report also advises that school systems must allow staff to get to know students well “through regular formal and informal contact within the school” so that child protection issues may be spotted.
Published alongside the research is practical guidance based on the examples of good practice and the seven safety principles.
Good Practice in Safeguarding and Child Protection in Secondary Schools asks 10 questions of schools aimed at helping them to ensure their safeguarding approaches are effective. Questions include:
Do young people in your school know who they can talk to about their worries and concerns?
Is there a range of ways they can get help?
Do students have a voice and participate in the school’s child protection and support processes?
The guidance emphasises the importance of students having “the language to voice concerns”, and says that schools’ strategies must be student-centred.
It states: “Many young people of secondary school age turn to their peers and talk among themselves about concerns that they have, in preference to sharing them with adults. Most of the schools we visited recognised this and had responded by introducing child-centred responses, for example through the introduction of buddying or mentor schemes.”
Janet Boddy, co-director of the Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth at the University of Sussex, which carried out the research, said: “Given how different the schools were, it was striking to see such consistent messages in how they had developed good practice. In schools and local authorities, leaders worked together to prioritise safeguarding and child protection, while student-centred work helped all young people to recognise risks and talk about any concerns they might have.”
The seven principles in the report are:
Child protection is given strategic priority (despite financial pressures).
Safeguarding is a shared responsibility and all staff understand how they contribute.
Strong networks of communication between schools and local authorities.
Established systems for regular on-going training and professional development.
School systems enable staff to get to know their students well, through regular formal and informal contact.
Students are aware of potential risks and have the language to voice concerns.
A student-centred ethos.
Ms Atkinson said: “This report provides a new perspective on safeguarding – that of children.”
You can download the report and best practice guidance at www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk