Reach Academy Feltham is an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ all-through school in London. The school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL), Georgia Crew, offered the following top tips for safeguarding:
1. Recognise that safeguarding and learning go hand in hand
Safeguarding is about making sure that children are safe and secure at school and at home. It needs to be at the heart of everything schools do: if a child isn’t healthy and happy then they won’t be successful.
2. Involve all staff in safeguarding training
Every year, Reach Academy Feltham runs safeguarding training as part of an INSET day before school starts. A whole-school approach is taken: the cleaners, kitchen staff and the front office staff all attend and all staff should be trained to the same level. Safeguarding training needs to be made relatable to all roles. For example, by explaining how kitchen staff might pick up on changes in eating patterns, or how cleaners might spot things of concern in the toilets.
These staff might overhear things children are unlikely to discuss in front of the teachers. All staff have a key role to play in building a picture of concerns and they need to understand their responsibility to flag concerns and the process for how to do so.
With a mixed audience, facilitators should not assume prior knowledge. Be mindful that while some staff will have a good grasp of best practice, for others there may be a lot of new information.
3. Provide regular opportunities for training and support
In addition to annual safeguarding training, the school supports staff by:
- Coordinating a weekly briefing where staff flag any vulnerable children so that everyone is aware. Note that specific information should only be shared on a need to know basis
- Holding meetings where the inclusion team get together and talk about cases. This is helpful for getting a range of perspectives: the team discusses what’s going wrong and what can be done to help the families involved
- Offering CPD and INSET days so that staff learn about key priorities in the area. In addition to exploring safeguarding processes, staff look in-depth at specific safeguarding issues
- Circulating safeguarding briefings highlighting relevant news stories and changes in legislation/policy to keep staff up to date
4. Ensure staff understand that child abuse is a real problem
Staff can take the attitude that child abuse doesn’t happen in their area, or to the pupils they teach. Make sure staff understand that child abuse does happen and is happening. Use real case studies from the local area to encourage staff reflection, although it's important to anonymise these unless they're published case studies available to the public.
5. Engage pupils and parents in safeguarding
To fully protect children, you must raise awareness across the whole community. Reach Academy Feltham holds ‘TeamReach’ days once a term where staff look at different aspects of safeguarding. For example, they recently focused on gendered violence. First, the school ran an INSET session on the topic. Then, pupils were taken off timetable for a day to be taught about the topic, including the implications of being in a violent relationship and how to spot the signs. Pupils applied their learning by making a video about the topic which was shared with parents and carers.
6. Safeguard your staff
Safeguarding is a difficult topic. At the start of any training, remind staff that there are always people to talk to and offer the school counselling service if they need it. Facilitators should be aware that staff may disclose their own experiences of abuse, and it's important to ensure time and support is available in these instances.