Safeguarding children for the new school year

By Helen Isherwood

While the sun may have finally reared its head for the school summer term, many schools will already be thinking ahead to September and preparing themselves for the new intake of pupils. It’s a busy period for schools and can be a daunting time for pupils and parents who will be experiencing a mix of excitement and nerves.

Whether a child is making the big leap to starting primary school for the first time or making the transition from primary to secondary school, it’s only natural that parents worry about how quickly their child will settle in, adapt to school life and make new friends. A recent poll suggests that three in five parents in the UK worry that their children are not ready to start school.

Another concern for parents is knowing that their children are safe, and that they will be notified immediately if there are any concerns. With safeguarding a key issue for schools, I wanted to share some of the ways that schools can work with parents to help safeguard their children.

Safeguarding arrangements
It’s widely recognised that the first few weeks of a child attending school are crucial. This provides an opportunity for teachers to learn about their new pupils and update parents on how they are getting on. The SIMS Teacher app is a really useful tool for teachers, especially at the start of the new school year, as it can help teachers to quickly learn new faces by showing the name and picture of all pupils in their class, as well as details about each child.

child in classThere are many safeguarding arrangements that your school should look to have in place and it’s key that school staff are aware of them. For example, can you easily contact a child’s parents? Have you informed parents of your school’s safeguarding policy? Can you send information to parents electronically to ensure it reaches home?

When starting a new school, there is sometimes the risk that information relating to vulnerable children can be delayed and on some occasions, not reach the school at all. It’s vital that vulnerable children are identified and protected immediately. If you’re concerned that a child may be vulnerable, it’s worth speaking with their parents and any previous educational establishments to help ensure they have the right support in place. Once your vulnerable groups have been identified, schools can take advantage of the user defined groups in SIMS to tactfully target communications to vulnerable groups without the stigma of the rest of the class knowing.

For many children starting primary school in September and for those starting secondary school, this may be the first time that children have to carry cash with them. Having an e-payment system such as SIMS Agora is a great way of providing that extra level of protection by allowing expenses such school dinners and trips to be paid directly from home. This eliminates the need for children to bring cash with them to school.

Communication
The expectations that parents have around communication and updates they receive from school are high and continue to rise. Knowing that their child is safe and how they are progressing can help to put parents’ minds at ease – whether it is through a phone call, email or a text message.

A communication tool such as SIMS InTouch allows you to keep parents up-to-date and automatically alerts them if their child misses registration, by contacting them via text or email.

Regular dialogue between parents and teachers is especially important during a child’s first year in a new school, as children adapt to the new routine of school life. Starting at secondary school brings additional challenges, with students adapting to being the youngest in the school and becoming more independent. SIMS Learning Gateway helps to engage parents and students in the learning process, by giving parents and students instant access to achievement, progress and attendance information, including homework set and its status. Parents can act as a crucial second pair of eyes for teachers. With SIMS Learning Gateway, they are well placed to spot any unexpected changes that occur and raise their concerns with the school around behaviour, attendance, detentions and assessment.

Early intervention
Everyone has a role to play in safeguarding children – it’s the shared responsibility of schools, local authorities, social services and parents to protect children.

Spotting issues as soon as they arise means you can intervene earlier and improve pupil outcomes by working with parents to prevent issues escalating. Having an MIS which records all your communications can be really useful too, so you can keep a complete record of a child and any conversations you’ve had with parents. All of this can be used as evidence to show to stakeholders that appropriate interventions are being made.

Schools can also monitor the impact of interventions using a graphical data analysis tool such as SIMS Discover, as well as identify vulnerable groups of children who require additional support.

By regularly keeping in touch with parents and working together to spot issues early, schools and parents can help to ensure a safe learning environment for children as they prepare for this new school year.

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