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A renewed focus on safeguarding in the education sector

A distressed pupil at school

Safeguarding is defined as the protection of the health, wellbeing, and rights of a vulnerable person. It is practiced by a number of working professionals, primarily those working in the care and education sectors and is primarily concerned with protecting vulnerable individuals from harm.

Safeguarding is absolutely essential to ensure that vulnerable people are protected from the many types of harm that the individuals might not be able to protect themselves from. These types of harmful incidents can come in many forms and from a number of different sources including family members, carers, education professionals, strangers, fellow students, other vulnerable individuals, and even the individual themselves.

This means that those working in the education sector must be extremely diligent when it comes to safeguarding children and young people, particularly as they are having to deal with multiple individuals at once whilst working in an environment full of safeguarding risks.

Why is safeguarding important in schools?

Those working in the education sector have a legal obligation to adhere to their safeguarding responsibilities under The Children Act 1989. This is because those under the age of 18 are vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse, which is why it is so crucial that school staff are committed to making sure that the pupil’s place of education is a safe place.

For this reason, the government offers statutory guidance to all schools in the form of the Keeping Children Safe In Education (KCSIE) document.

The Department of Education state that:

Keeping Children Safe in Education is statutory guidance that schools and colleges in England must have regard to when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Management committees of pupil referral units (PRUs) are asked to ensure that all staff in their school or college read at least Part one of the guidance.

Department of Education

However, safeguarding isn’t just about preventing dangerous situations, but there is also a heavy focus on avoiding dangerous people. Unfortunately, over the years many schools have been able to prevent such issues.

An immediate review into sex abuse in schools

In April 2021, over 11,500 testimonies were posted on the ‘Everyone's Invited’ website, where students can anonymously share their experiences of misogyny, harassment, abuse, and assault. This prompted the government to ask Ofsted to review the extent and the severity of harassment issues and undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies in both state and independent schools.

Evidently, action must be taken to ensure that anyone working with children and young adults are educated on the common warning signs of abuse and also how they should go about responding to it, recording observations and reporting the abuse.

Many of the school pupils who left testimonials on the website said that the perpetrators were either at the same school or in the same social groups, with accounts describing allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence carried out against young women by young men who are at school or college or university with them.

There's an erosion of an understanding of what normal sexual relationships look like, we have a real problem here and will investigate those allegations which are of a criminal nature

The National Police Chief’s Council lead on child protection when speaking to the BBC

Action and mass education needed

Gavin Williamson’s (Secretary of State for Education) department said it would not hesitate to take action where schools are failing to meet strict safeguarding standards. 

Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector for Ofsted, along with many others, has called for better education surrounding sexual consent and abuse, as well as introducing ‘call out’ behaviours.

Like everyone else, I have been deeply troubled by accounts of the sexual abuse and harassment young people have suffered at school and in the community.Schools have a crucial role to play in teaching young people about sexual consent and respect for women and girls.They must also be places where all children feel safe and where they are able to report any incidents of abuse or harassment and be confident that what they say will be acted upon.

Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector for Ofsted

It's really important we encourage our children and teenagers to be empowered to stand up to their friends and call out this behaviour, because I think that's the most influential space.

Ms Sara

Labour leader Keir Starmer also called for "cultural change in terms of behaviour in our schools and in our young people, but also in the respect that is shown particularly for women and girls".

Training and resources for the education sector

With half term approaching, those responsible for training staff in the education sector may consider utilising the break to ensure that all staff understand their safeguarding responsibilities.

We offer a number of online training courses and free resources that can help all levels of staff in the education sector gain a better understanding of their safeguarding responsibilities.

Our Safeguarding Children Training course is suitable for anyone working with children, and is endorsed by Skills for Care. The 60 minute course explains the 4 R’s of child protection in bitesize chunks, and teaches the user about the difficult subject of child abuse.

Some of the other courses we offer to help education professionals understand their safeguarding responsibilities includes:

Our free resources include:

  • Keeping Children Safe on Social Media
  • Signs of Mental Ill-Health in Children
  • Common Warning Signs of Abuse or Neglect in Children

You can find all of our Safeguarding FAQs and Resources here.

Online Safeguarding Training Courses
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