This information is condensed from the statutory guidance on ‘Keeping Children Safe In Education‘, the new version of which comes into effect from September 2020. Safeguarding training can sometimes be a long winded affair, so I’ve decided to summarise it in 10 bullet-points for new teachers.
NOTE: This in no way absolves you of your responsibility to read that guidance carefully and understand it inside it out – that’s part of all of our jobs. What these bullet-points are intended to do is to give you some headlines to summarise what’s in there – a skeleton to build on, if you will.
- Keeping children safe is the responsibility of everyone who comes into contact with children and you should approach this duty with the mindset of what is in the best interests of the child. Since everyone has a role to play, you can only get the best and most full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances if everyone who comes into contact with them is sharing information and communicating with each other. Don’t assume it won’t happen in your school or your context – these issues can and do happen everywhere and to peoples of varied backgrounds, classes, ethnicities, etc.
- Your school will have a DSL (Designated Safeguarding Lead), whose job is to oversee all safeguarding concerns; take reports forward and deal with them; and make sure that all staff are trained in safeguarding. Find out who this person is and if they have a team, know who they are.
- Your school will have a reporting system for safeguarding concerns. Find out what it is and how to use it. My school uses MyConcern. You might be asked to write any concern or disclosure down and then bring it to the DSL promptly in person. Whatever the procedure is, you need to know it. Furthermore, you must act promptly on any concerns. As an NQT, you might think that someone who knows better is probably best placed to spot a sign and deal with it. No. You’re now the professional and it’s expected of you to step up. It’s better to report something straight away and have it turn out to not be an issue than wait and it turns out it was a big issue and you left it (read that again).
- If a child makes a disclosure to you, NEVER promise confidentiality. You just can’t. If that child is in danger, someone needs to know about it in order to keep them safe and healthy. You can’t be worried about your relationship with the student or whether this will stop them disclosing something again – at that moment, your duty is to protect that student and report the issue. If in doubt, report it anyway and your DSL will decide if and how to take it forward. On that note, it’s also not your duty to keep up to date with the issue once you’ve disclosed it. You’ve done your bit. If anything further is required from you, you’ll be told. But if for some reason you believe that action has not been taken on an issue that requires it, you must escalate that complaint – if that means going above your DSL to the next step up (find out who that is – usually the Headteacher), then do it. Remember, the safety of the child is paramount.
- Read the different forms of abuse carefully. I can’t summarise this one (and it wouldn’t be appropriate to either). Mental health is also included as something to look out for. Apart from the obvious thing of needing to know this in order to look out for the wellbeing of the young people around you, it can also turn into a legal issue for you later on if these signs were present and you failed to spot them. Knowledge is the first step on the road to vigilance.
- You’re part of the culture of the school. You’re also part of what maintains the culture in your school. Why am I saying this? Read the section on peer-on-peer abuse (p.27). When you see things like this going on (even in the name of ‘banter’), your job is to tackle it so that a positive environment is maintained for all students, which will benefit all staff as well.
- Find out who in your classes is in a vulnerable category – e.g. ‘looked after’ children; children that have a social worker; children with SEND. Ask the Head of Year and/or your SENDCo or the DSL for the background to these students. It’s good to know generally in terms of supporting them with their academic progress, but particularly in relation to safeguarding, as you may need to be more vigilant toward this group to keep them safe.
- There are things you can do to avoid being accused of misconduct (yes, it can happen). Find out the full list of how to keep yourself safe from malicious allegations – you have a duty to yourself and your career as well. There’s a whole list here that you can read and implement as well: https://www.visionforeducation.co.uk/looking-for-work/classroom-advice/keeping-yourself-and-your-pupils-safe
- With regards to your online life, I’ll just say this as bluntly as I can: it’s not private anymore. You are now a public figure – congratulations! You can have the best privacy filters and everything on Facebook, Twitter, etc, and things can still be accessed – maybe the settings changed without you knowing it (happens all the time). As a rule, don’t put anything on there that you wouldn’t feel comfortable being shared publicly. You might be thinking, “But it’s my life and they’re my mates and I have a right to… blah, blah, blah.” No you don’t. Get over it. And for God’s sake, don’t type/add anything when you’re drunk.
- From p.82 to p.94, you’ve got information on different forms of abuse – what they are, etc. These include Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), county lines, forced marriage, etc. I would highly recommend reading this section as well for your own knowledge in order to understand what they are and what duties you have in regards to reporting these specific instances of abuse.
So, there you go. I hope that’s been helpful. Hit me up with any questions/comments here or on Twitter, @TheAvaisQureshi