‘The fourth partner’: Safeguarding arrangements must prioritise schools

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

New multi-agency child safeguarding arrangements must overcome the disjointed nature of the schools sector in order to prioritise engagement with education.

Being rolled out this year, new safeguarding arrangements will see senior representatives from three key bodies – local authorities, police and health services – taking joint responsibility for leading work to safeguard children.

The changes come after the government’s 2016 review of the role and functions of local safeguarding children boards and have been set out in the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and the updated Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance (DfE, 2018).

Feedback from the Safeguarding Early Adopter Programme, which launched last year, bringing together 17 projects across the country to develop the new approaches, says that schools should be treated as “the fourth partner”.

The feedback report identifies schools as having “a priority status among relevant agencies” but warns that: “In practice, giving schools a similar role to the statutory safeguarding partners has been challenging due to the lack of formal local leadership structures from which to co-opt representatives of this sector.”

However, the report highlights effective approaches from the pilots, including ensuring schools contribute to safeguarding agendas, the establishment of Education Safeguarding Groups in local areas, and peer-reviewer roles being established between pairs of schools.

The pilot programme was facilitated by the National Children’s Bureau.

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