Child protection protocols in schools should be stronger

Parents might well believe that if a teacher suspects that a student is being abused by a member of staff, the allegation must be reported to the local authority or police for independent investigation but this isn’t actually the case. Safeguarding Children And Safer Recruitment In Education is the government’s current guidance document which suggests that any child protection concerns should be passed on to the local authority’s designated officer. The reporting procedures state that following any allegation any concerns “need to be applied with common sense and judgment”. This wording is obviously intended to prevent the relevant authorities being inundated with complaints.

The Government is due to produce a revised guidance, called Working Together To Safeguard Children, soon and this new guidance is expected to place even more trust in the people who work with children to use their own judgment as to whether an official complaint should be put forward. There will be no mandatory requirement for concerns to be passed on to higher authorities for investigation.

Campaigners say the lack of clarity surrounding reporting not only fails children, but also fails staff, who are left without any obvious course of action should they report suspicions to a headteacher who does not then take action. In this situation, their only current recourse is to become a whistleblower. But, by placing a mandatory requirement to report concerns, the relevant authorities would definitely become quickly overloaded.