Keeping Children Safe in Education
As teachers, safeguarding of children is our number one priority. What can we do to keep children safe in school? What are our responsibilities as teachers?
What is Safeguarding?
Safeguarding is a crucial element of every school’s policy. Not only is it a legal requirement, but a human one that is always changing as new forms of communication and technology come into play. Safeguarding in the UK protects any vulnerable person from different forms of abuse. Child welfare plays a huge part of our jobs as teachers every day, so it’s important for us to have a deep understanding of what exactly we need to do to keep children safe at school.
Who is Responsible for Safeguarding?
Everyone – not just safeguarding leads, but teachers and teaching assistants, anyone from catering staff, cleaners, all the way up to headteachers and governors. Everyone who works with children is responsible for doing their part in protecting the welfare of children.
5 Ways to Make Sure Children Stay Safe at School
As teachers, it’s important to create a safe space where children can learn and thrive. In order to do that, we need to make sure we continue to do things that enable children to be protected at school, at home, and online. As well as protecting children from immediate harm, safeguarding is about putting systems in place to prevent them from being at risk in future.
1. Appoint a Designated Safeguarding Lead
Every school needs to have a Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL). To be appointed as Designated Safeguarding Lead, the candidate must be a senior member of staff, and have gone through the appropriate training.
The DSL must hold a Level 3 Designated Safeguarding Lead Training Qualification to ensure they are fully able to maintain the standards of safeguarding policy and deliver training to staff. Safeguarding Leads need to know how to make quick, well-informed decisions when notified of any concerns for child safety.
2. Maintain Regular & Up-to-Date Safeguarding Training
It’s crucial to the wellbeing of children that everyone has the same regular safeguarding training to make sure that everyone knows what to do if a child discloses something to them, they notice signs of neglect or abuse, or have any concerns about worrying behaviour.
3. Report Any Concerns
If you see or hear something you think might be putting, or has put a child at risk in any way shape or form, ‘it’s probably nothing’ is the furthest from the truth. It is always better to be safe than sorry in cases of child safety.
4. Prevention, Not Just Protection
It’s important that not only we protect children when they are at risk, and have perhaps come forward to disclose an unsafe situation, but prevent those situations from escalating at all.
‘Prevent’ is about safeguarding children from being drawn or groomed into terrorism. When we talk abut Prevent, we need to educate ourselves as teachers (via safeguarding training) about the warning signs that a child might be at risk of being radicalised, and take the correct safeguarding steps (reporting and supporting) to diffuse the situation completely.
5. Safer Recruitment
Safer Recruitment is the process of forming a tight net system to ensure you receive genuine applicants, and deter those who could pose a risk to the safety of children. Safer recruitment starts with pre-recruitment planning, obtaining the right references and DBS checks, and taking extra steps to ensure candidates are drawn to the position for appropriate and professional reasons.
4 Tips for Handling Disclosures of Child Abuse
To be put into a situation where a child discloses a case of child abuse or any risk to their safety is always tough. As teachers, we do everything we can to create a safe, positive and happy learning environment where children can thrive. Unfortunately, these things do happen. It is your job as a teacher to take the correct supportive steps to ensure the protection of the child, and it is your duty to report it.
1. Help Them Open Up
The key to encouraging a child to open up about what they’ve been through, is building trust and coming across approachable. Good communication skills are key here. If a child has already come to you, it’s a good sign that they trust you already – so well done.
For the child, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to talk about it. So, creating a calm and safe environment is key. Turn off distractions, focus on them, and keep an eye on your body language.
2. Take Your Time – Don’t Rush It
The last thing you want to do is make the child feel like they’re being rushed. So, although you may feel anxious about how you’re dealing with it (how much you’ve remembered, and what to do next), the most important thing is for the child to know that you are making time for them. They need to know that they are a priority, and that you’re listening to their story.
3. Reassure, Reassure, Reassure
The child needs to be assured that they have not done anything wrong. In the situation of child abuse, the child is likely incredibly nervous about telling someone and has worked up to it for a long time. Make sure you reassure them that none of what is happening is their fault.
No matter how much a child says they don’t want you to tell anyone, you have a duty to report it.
In the majority of cases, this will be your designated safeguarding lead. Once you have made the child feel safe in telling you, the next step is to pass on the disclosure to the person whose job it is to deal with these kinds of situations. At this stage, you have done everything that you can. Do not sit on it, do not contemplate it. Drop everything – and report it.
Safeguarding in 2021
As we know, safeguarding is always changing to keep up with new social media and technology. Now we need to learn new ways to deal with online grooming, cyberbullying, and cyber predators.
As a teacher, it is crucial to stay up-to-date with training, education, and best practices.
For more information on safeguarding best practices, visit the government’s statutory guidance.