Just before the start of term, I was chatting with a teacher from another school. They were talking about their preparations for the start of the year. However, as our conversation progressed it became clear that this teacher felt anxious about their safeguarding responsibilities.
Now, obviously, this didn’t surprise me, as all of us in education have the fear that we might miss a key indicator that a child is at risk. However, the thing that never stops surprising me is that teachers often feel that the responsibility lies with just them. This really shouldn’t be the case. Effective safeguarding is 100% a team effort.
It’s important to create a culture where everyone is looking out for the wellbeing of our young people. A comprehensive process needs to be in place to ensure that all the knowledge that exists within a school is collated and monitored to spot changes in behaviour, attendance or achievement.
I encourage everyone who walks through our school gates to take notice, whether it’s a parent helping in school, our catering staff and even the students themselves.
At Passmores Academy, we ensure safeguarding is a topic we address weekly, so every Thursday we get together to share anything that we have noticed. It can be a tough subject but at our school we work together to protect each other as well as the students. Talking about it takes the fear and worry out of it for individuals.
As you can probably guess, safeguarding is a subject I feel strongly about and our school has worked hard to put together a comprehensive safeguarding system. Here are my top tips for making safeguarding a team effort:
Spot the difference
As teachers, we often notice the little things such as a child being quieter, less engaged or a change in attendance. It’s these things that might seem inconsequential at the time but if shared with colleagues they might be early indicators of a potential issue. The sharing of this intelligence might alert other teachers to monitor a student more closely in their lessons.
Vertical tutor groups are a great way to keep an eye on these changes. By having mixed-age tutor groups and aiming to keep the same tutor throughout a student’s time at school, our tutors only have a small number of new Year 7s to get to know every year rather than 30 new students. This makes it easier to build trust and closer relationships, which helps with spotting when anything is different.
Sharing is caring
It’s obvious to say we need to listen but to ensure safeguarding is as effective as possible, students must feel comfortable to talk to us in the first place. It’s imperative to create an open environment where everyone can share things that are worrying them or challenges that they are facing. As teachers, it’s important that we also share some of the challenges we face to show that we are human and might be facing similar difficulties. This openness will create conversations enabling us to offer better support.
Use texts and bully boxes
Sometimes it’s not easy tell someone face to face about an issue you have. So, putting in place other communication methods is a good addition to a safeguarding strategy. For example, our pupils have a specific text number they can use if there is something they are scared to talk about in person. This can start a conversation in a more comfortable medium. We also have ‘Bully Boxes’ situated around the school. These have been a fantastic addition as not only do students post their own worries but we also have had situations where a student has alerted us to concerns that they have had about a friend. It’s a brilliant way to build a community where everyone feels the responsibility to look out for each other.
Call for back up
Accurate record keeping is essential for safeguarding. Make sure every incident is documented, with information on how it has been managed and resolved, so if trends or risks are starting to emerge they will be quickly identified. Without appropriate systems, however, this can cause a significant administrative burden. Safeguarding requires a structured approach and it’s essential that you can easily access evidence when it’s needed. Using a school’s SIMS software system, which most schools already have, is a simple way of providing additional support to our teachers to do this. We can all then be confident that anything that has been spotted will be recorded. This means that appropriate action will be taken whether it’s to confidentially communicate with relevant staff members or trusted external agencies such as social care.
As much as possible, we need to take the fear out of safeguarding. I’m not saying it isn’t a difficult or upsetting subject but the more we work together, the more effective we will be at protecting the wellbeing of young people. This isn’t a one-person job, it’s a team effort where we are all responsible for creating a safe learning environment for students.
Vic Goddard (@vicgoddard) is the principal of the Passmores Academy and star of Educating Essex.
This blog first appeared on www.academytoday.co.uk