“You have someone to trust” – Practical tips for schools

A new report released yesterday ‘You Have Someone to Trust’ (Sept 2012) has been written by the NSPCC for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner examining outstanding safeguarding practice in primary schools. The report describes and shares the good practice of schools which were found, by Ofsted, to have outstanding safeguarding provision.

To assist schools to examine their own safeguarding practise and based on the ‘You Have Someone to Trust’ report, a ‘Practical tips for schools’ handbook has been published by the Children’s Commissioner.  The handbook is summarised below giving 12 Questions for schools to ask themselves about their safeguarding practice.  Each question is followed by a selection of the key tips, suggested in the handbook, to deliver and demonstrate good practice.

1.       Are your leadership team members involved in all aspects of Safeguarding?

  • Senior leaders in the school are visible and accessible.
  • Safeguarding is an overt priority with designated staff time for safeguarding duties.
  • Clear roles, responsibilities and systems are in place and promoted by the Head and Senior Leadership Team creating and reinforcing a cohesive structure and a shared vision which filters through to pupils, parents, carers and volunteers.
  • There is no threshold for sharing concerns any concern can be raised by any member of staff.
  • Cases are reviewed and learning shared

2.       Is Safeguarding a shared responsibility in your school?

  • All staff know how and where to record any concerns – this is reinforced by regular training.
  • All staff know who to approach if they have concerns. There is easy access to the designated person(s) and the senior leadership team.
  • Regular updates are given to all staff on any changes in policy, practice and concerns relating to individual pupils (as appropriate).
  • There is a shared understanding that individuals might not know all the information about a child but trust that they are told what they need to know.
  • The leadership team is sensitive to the importance of managing confidentiality, recognising too that staff may be members of the local community.
  • Regardless of their role, all staff communicate with each other to support the children.

3.       Are staff seen as approachable to children, parents and carers?

  • The school gains feedback from children and parents, and confirms there is a responsive, safe environment, where children feel confident in talking to adults and trust the school to take their concerns seriously, and parents’ concerns are heard.
  • Senior members of staff are visible and accessible.
  • The school identifies staff the pupils feel comfortable talking to and provides access to them – for example via lunch clubs or allowing children to come into school at break time.
  • Staff are child centred, and tenacious in accessing support for the families in their school.
  • External partners’ feedback is gained and confirms the school has good links with them in order to promote safeguarding.

4.       Do staff feel well supported in their safeguarding role?

  • Clear systems for reporting and recording concerns and feedback leads to staff feeling listened to.
  • Communication on safeguarding is embedded in practice, for example as a standing item in staff meetings.
  • Policies are reinforced and reviewed regularly with all staff. Resources such as quick reference reminders of their duties and induction information are available.
  • Regular training is provided, in addition to the statutory updates that are required. The training provided responds to needs and issues identified by staff.
  • Staff are given professional and emotional support in their safeguarding duties.

5.       Are all concerns recorded and monitored in a consistent way and do they inform the targeting of early intervention?

  • A ‘zero threshold’ is in place for the level of concerns that get recorded and discussed: no concern is too small to be considered.
  • All staff have access to the recording system used in the school; extending to midday supervisors, learning mentors, office staff and caretakers as well as teachers.
  • Records are monitored and collated regularly by a member of the senior leadership team with the appropriate feedback given to staff.
  • Monitoring is used to evaluate the child’s case and also the school processes as a whole.
  • Records are used to identify need and target resources, including training needs.
  • Early allocation of school resources, such as learning mentor time or support groups, is considered so that this may prevent the escalation of problems.
  • Monitoring provides evidence of the involvement of other agencies.

6.       What safeguarding and child protection training does your school provide?

  • All staff, governors and volunteers have safeguarding awareness training to reinforce their shared responsibility.
  • Child protection training is provided which enables staff to understand the nature of abuse and neglect, recognise when children are at risk or are suffering abuse, know their responsibilities to protect children have a sound grasp of school policies and procedures.
  • Training reflects specific lead responsibilities for safeguarding within the school and is responsive to the changing needs of children (e.g. increased numbers of refugees in the area, a Traveller population, a rise in unemployment).
  • Pupils providing peer support are provided with appropriate training and on-going support for their role.
  • Parents are offered sessions in basic safeguarding awareness and assisted to understand the school’s responsibilities and its policy and systems.

7.       Are there a range of listening and support strategies to meet the individual needs of pupils?

  • The school has a range of support systems and approaches (e.g. Worry boxes, Times to talk, Nurture groups, School council, Counselling services)  that are informed by the needs and concerns of their children.
  • The systems are planned to pick up and respond to problems at an early stage and also to ensure a timely and appropriate response where children are at risk.
  • The different systems are planned to complement each other as part of an overall strategy and in the context of a whole school approach.
  • Peer support arrangements empower children to help each other are properly resourced and well supported.
  • Schools know from their children that they believe and trust that the staff are there to help and support them.
  • Pupil participation is embedded in the way the school runs. Children know that they will be supported to express their views and their wishes and to have them heard and taken seriously.

8.       Do children have a voice in your school systems and are they able to give their feedback?

  • Children have opportunities and choices to talk to someone and be taken seriously – such as circle time when pupils can lead the content through use of worry boxes.
  • Children have opportunities to express their views and to give feedback on what worked.
  • Peer Support – tailored to the needs of the school. Where students give listening support to their peers having been trained for their role and with the support of an identified member of staff.
  • Buddies – a system where new pupils are given a ‘buddy’ to help them settle in. This system can also be offered to pupils who are identified as vulnerable.
  • “Circle of Friends” –is an approach to enhancing the inclusion, in a mainstream setting, of any young person who is experiencing difficulties in school because of a disability, personal crisis or because of their challenging behaviour towards others.
  • School forums and other formal approaches to consultation.

9.       Are Children given skills and knowledge on keeping safe?

  • ‘Keeping safe’ messages are embedded in the whole school approach, through assemblies and classroom activities.
  • The curriculum is designed and resources used in creative ways to introduce and consolidate keeping safe messages and skills.
  • Visual aids reinforce the messages given and provide signposts to support.
  • A range of targeted activities could include: Anti-bullying week activities, Police Community Safety Officer (PCSO) visits, Internet safety activities, Newsletters, Theatre visits or drama activities.

10.   How do you engage with parents and carers?

  • Staff are available and approachable e.g. staff and leadership team are at the beginning and end of the day.
  • Parents know who to talk to about their concerns.
  • Involvement of parents and carers in different aspects of school life is welcomed: this can range from volunteering in classroom to developing policies.
  • Good communication: a combination of approaches which can include letters, web site, policies, prospectus and meetings, conversations in the playground and phone calls.
  • Identifying vulnerable parents and proactively offering support.
  • Providing information about and access to external support agencies.
  • Parents and carers give regular feedback on safeguarding issues and school processes so schools know whether their parents and carers feel engaged.

 11.   Is priority given to developing relationships with your external partners?

  • A key member of staff, for example the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), is given time and responsibility to establish relationships with external partners.
  • Space is allocated in school for multi-agency meetings and for agencies to meet with pupils and their parents.
  • Schools are actively engaged in the community and are a recognised hub for support.
  • Staff are given opportunities to develop skills and resources in supporting and protecting children.

12.    Are your policies ‘living’ documents which develop from reflection on practice?

  • Policies reflect real life concerns and are adjusted to the needs of the school community. They are regularly reviewed in accordance with both statutory requirements and school needs.
  • Policies are communicated consistently across the staff group
  • Policies are related to the specific roles and responsibilities of staff and volunteers.
  • Policies are accessible to all.