Supply teaching: A safeguarding update

Written by: Helen Frostick | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

With an eye on the supply teacher's role, Helen Frostick offers education professionals a safeguarding update, including advice about the questions you should be asking your placement schools

Section 11 of the Children Act (2004) places a number of duties on a range of organisations, including schools and individuals, to ensure that when they go about their daily business, they do so in a way that takes into account the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

This article summarises procedures and practices in schools for the attention of supply teachers who are to be placed in school either on a short-term or long-term basis.

Section 11 outlines the need to have in place safe systems and safe processes, for example by ensuring safe recruitment of staff, providing appropriate training and by having up-to-date policies which all staff know how to access.

What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding is protecting children from maltreatment. It is preventing impairment of children’s health or development. It is ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care. It is taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes (Working together to safeguard children, Department for Education).

Child protection is a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare. It refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm.

As visitors to school, supply teachers will need to know the procedures in place in school for keeping children and young people safe. Prompt questions to ask include:

  • Who is the designated safeguarding officer in the school?
  • What are the procedures for evacuation in the event of an emergency?
  • Who are the first-aiders and what are the procedures for sending children and young people for medical assistance?
  • Which children and young people have medical needs?
  • Are any of the children or young people that you will be teaching on the “at risk register” for attendance or other matters?
  • If teaching younger children what are the procedures for dismissal at the start and end of the day?
  • How is perimeter security managed?

In schools, current priority areas include some of the following which should be on your radar:

  • Bullying, including cyber-bullying.
  • Racist, disability, and homophobic or transphobic abuse.
  • Radicalisation and extremist behaviour.
  • Child sexual exploitation.
  • Impact of new technologies, for example sexting.
  • Substance misuse.
  • Issues that may be specific to a local community, such as gang activity and youth violence.
  • Domestic abuse.
  • Female genital mutilation.
  • Child slavery.

Training in safeguarding and children protection is very important. Supply teachers can fall out of the loop of CPD, but many supply agencies do signpost staff to online training. Online training is bespoke to individuals and comes highly recommended. Many supply agencies include this in the training for their teachers.

On alert

When on a placement, the safeguarding team at school needs to be made aware of any concerns, however minor. It is highly unlikely that the children or young people themselves will disclose something to a supply teacher, but it could be that something is noticed while changing for PE, for example.

It is unusual that supply teachers will be responsible for off-site teaching, such as on educational visits, but if it is the case, risk assessments must be carried out and signed by the headteacher or safeguarding lead.

Also, it would be useful to check at the outset if any children or young people have an SEN which results in violent and aggressive outbursts. Schools will have a policy on what to do if there’s a necessity for physical restraint. Find out the senior staff who you can refer such incidents too.


eSafety is an area which is important to understand as a supply teacher. Schools widely use the internet and ICT to enhance learning and as a discrete subject and it is an area that can present dangers. Schools have to have an e-safety policy, so check it at the beginning of your placement. It will include acceptable use of the internet and related technologies.

Schools are aware of their responsibilities in ensuring that ICT usage by all network users is responsible, safe and secure. Filters will be in place to prevent illegal sites being accessible. The policy will, most likely, link into a school’s child protection and anti-bullying policies, ensuring that all staff know who to go to if they have a concern that a child or young person might be at risk or suffering harm as a result of the use of these technologies.

Also check the school’s mobile phone policy, both for you and for the children and young people you will be teaching.

At primary level, use of mobile phones may be allowed for children in upper junior, but perhaps just when children are walking to and from school alone; after arrival they are usually handed in at the office.
Check the policy in secondary schools too, as mobile phones can be one of the greatest challenges to children’s safety if not regulated.

Code of conduct/handbooks

In terms of general safeguarding information, check the school’s code of conduct for staff and/or the staff handbook. You will need to familiarise yourself with the whistleblowing policy, which details what to do if you suspect there is any foul play or fraudulent activity in the school. The behaviour and anti-bullying policies will also help you to navigate around the areas of welfare, personal and pastoral safety.

A focus on SEND

A new section in the DfE’s statutory guidance Keeping children safe in education specifies children with SEND as a particularly vulnerable group. It emphasises:

  • That it should not be assumed that indicators of possible abuse such as behaviour, mood and injury relate to the child’s impairment.
  • That children with SEN can be more vulnerable to bullying.
  • That children with SEN can have additional communication barriers.


At the end of the day, supply agencies will be able to give advice in the more tricky areas if there is uncertainty as to procedures or practices to follow in order to keep children and young people safe.
It is a team responsibility, so supply teachers have their part to play. If in doubt ask the question and always refer through the school’s designated safeguarding lead.

  • Helen Frostick is a National Leader of Education and a headteacher in south London. She advises and writes regular for SecEd’s sister publication, Headteacher Update.

Further information

Supply teacher: Free download

SecEd’s current series of best practice articles for supply teachers will run until January. See below for links to specific previous articles. All articles in this series are available as a free pdf at


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