Safeguarding in Schools and Your Responsibility as a Teacher
As an overseas trained teacher moving to the UK you might be unsure of what the safeguarding procedures are at your new school. As an educator, you have daily contact with students so are well placed to identify if there is a potential issue. Because of this, safeguarding is an essential component of every school and it is critical you have a sound understanding of this and your role within it.
We have created a little guide below to help you understand safeguarding in UK schools.
What is safeguarding?
Both Safeguarding and Child Protection are often used interchangeably but actually have different meanings. Safeguarding is the policies and practices that schools will employ to keep children safe and promote their well-being. Child Protection on the other hand is a term used to describe the activity that is undertaken to protect children effectively when there is a concern.
Each School will have its own safeguarding policy. This will go into detail on the procedures to follow for staff if they were to have a concern about a student’s safety. It will also identify who at the school is the designated safeguarding lead.
Child protection would come into play if you notice or are suspicious of children who may be suffering abuse or harm. Signs to look out for are:
- Physical harm – Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, seems afraid to go home
- Child Neglect – Clothes are ill-fitting or dirty, hygiene is consistently bad, is often late or missing from school
- Sexual abuse – avoids/runs away from home often, trouble walking or sitting, knowledge of sexual acts inappropriate for their age
What do you need to do if a child comes to you with a concern?
It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed if a child has raised a concern to you. Child abuse is a difficult subject that can be very hard to talk about—for both you and the child. When talking with an abused child, the best way to encourage them is to show calm reassurance and support.
When speaking to the child try to:
- Avoid denial – If you deny or show shock the student may shut down and won’t feel comfortable continuing.
- Remain calm – This may be hard but try to be as calm as possible
- Don’t interrogate – Do not ask leading questions, let the child explain in their own words.
- Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong – Be sure to reassure the child that they have done the right thing by telling you and have done nothing wrong
Who do you need to speak too?
Each school will have designated members of staff who are responsible and trained to deal with safeguarding concerns. If you have a concern or a student has disclosed something to you, it is your responsibility to report this to the safeguarding lead at the school. So it is vital you know who this is.
When starting out at a new school it is important to find out who this is. The school will most likely inform you of this, but if not be sure to ask. You should also refer to the schools safeguarding policy to gain an understanding of what you are required to do when a concern is raised about a student’s welfare.
It is important to report each separate incident if it continues to occur. The more information you can provide, the better the chance of the child getting the help they deserve. Of course, it’s normal to have some reservations or worries about reporting suspected child abuse or neglect, however it is your duty of care.