Whole-school safeguarding

Written by: Laura Ralph | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Many schools will have started the year with a safeguarding INSET day for staff, but how can you engage parents and pupils in safeguarding too? Laura Ralph looks at some top tips for crucial safeguarding communications

Are your pupils clear about what counts as a safeguarding concern? Do they know what to do if they are worried? Do parents understand your safeguarding policy and what their own role is?

Many school leaders will have started the year ensuring that existing staff have received a safeguarding update, through training, bulletins or resources. New staff will have had safeguarding inductions, too.

However, staff are not the only members of the school community with a role to play in safeguarding, so here are some tips gathered from schools and experts we work with at The Key on ways you can promote a culture of keeping children safe that involves pupils and parents too.

Raising awareness of who to turn to

Class teachers should remind pupils at the start of the year who the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) is in their school and what their role is. This information should be appropriate to the age and maturity of the pupils and should not go into too much detail.

It is important that pupils are aware of who they can talk to about any safeguarding issues. This might be the DSL, their class teacher and/or another familiar member of staff.

Capturing pupils’ concerns

Schools can give pupils different options for talking about their concerns. Some schools provide pupils with a “worry box” to communicate any issues they may have. Others have a page on their school website for pupils to register concerns online.

Pupil-friendly safeguarding policies could be written in accessible language to give children a better understanding. One secondary school’s policy explains what safeguarding pupils means and includes sections on “abuse”, “staying safe in and out of school”, “what the school will do”, and “tips for keeping safe”.

It is important to ensure that staff are aware of the different ways in which pupils with SEN or disabilities might try to express that something is wrong. For example, some pupils may try to communicate a problem through art or music therapy, or sign language. For other pupils, changed or inappropriate behaviour may indicate that something is wrong.

Pupil questionnaires can also be used to enable pupils to express their concerns. One Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) created a survey which asked pupils to indicate whether they are “not worried”, “a little bit worried” or “worried” about a list of possible concerns, including options such as being bullied online and being approached by a stranger. The surveys were handed out to form groups or in PSHE classes and the results aimed to capture the voice of young people and better understand their worries and concerns.

Keeping parents in the know

One of our experts, a previous headteacher who now works with local authorities to produce guidance for schools, said that communicating with parents and carers about safeguarding should be simple and clear.

It is important that parents know what safeguarding is, what schools are expected to do and what safeguarding looks like in school. Parents should know who they, and their child, should speak to with any concerns.

Parents of pupils with SEN or disabilities also need to be told about the arrangements the school has in place to safeguard their children, and how these will be carried out – for example, intimate care procedures.

One DSL from an all-through school in Greater London, gave us some tips for engaging parents in a safeguarding culture. Notably, when a child starts at her school, the school ensures a home-school agreement is set up and signed by parents and pupils. The contract contains a line that states: “We will do whatever it takes to ensure children live happy, healthy and successful lives.” This shows parents and pupils that safeguarding is a priority from the start of a child’s school career.

You could make use of your school website to communicate with parents on this area too. Many schools publish more than their safeguarding policy on their school website, for example you could add resources, key members of staff and first steps if parents are worried about their child next to the link to the safeguarding policy.

Sending letters or safeguarding pamphlets can be a useful way to update parents on issues appropriate to their context, such as an anti-homophobia campaign, sexting or the risks of child sexual exploitation.
Increasing engagement and participation

Some schools run workshops for parents throughout the year to support their understanding of safeguarding issues. You could cover topics such as online grooming and send out video clips to parents on further issues throughout the year to encourage more participation.

Pupils can also help engage their parents in the safeguarding community. One school we spoke to holds training days once a term where staff look at different aspects of safeguarding, such as gendered violence.

First, the school ran an INSET session on the topic. Then pupils were taken off timetable for a day to be taught about the topic, including the implications of being in a violent relationship and how to spot the signs. Pupils applied their learning by making a video about the topic, which was then shared with parents and carers.

Whether it’s making your current safeguarding systems more accessible and transparent to pupils and parents, or seeking their views and participation in building your safeguarding community further, your school’s inclusive approach to understanding safeguarding could make all the difference in keeping your pupils safe and happy.

  • Laura Ralph is a specialist content editor at The Key, which provides impartial leadership and management support to schools in England and also runs a Safeguarding Training Centre. Visit


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