“Every school takes safeguarding seriously"

Following the news that Ofsted are to visit English schools where sexual abuse was reported (source: BBC), Justin Reilly, former teacher and CEO of safeguarding software company Impero, says that the pressure on schools to meet education standards and perform on league tables risks down-prioritisation in the classroom of wellbeing issues, and more guidance is needed:

“Every school takes safeguarding seriously. In my years as a teacher, I never met a colleague or leader who didn’t. School leaders and teachers can struggle to identify how well-being, safeguarding, and attainment come together and their role in keeping our children safe when bombarded by so many other pressures.

“The first principle of teaching is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all to learn. It should be the first box to tick in any inspection. How schools achieve this is going to depend in large part on the circumstance of the school. For example, geography will also play a role, as will other socio-economic factors.

The pressure on schools to meet education standards and perform on league tables risks down-prioritisation in the classroom of wellbeing issues. It can quickly become a tactical response rather than a strategic one. On top of that, we are experiencing the biggest challenge to education in living memory with the pandemic. Under these circumstances, it is hard to see how schools could unanimously be implementing safeguarding best practice fully. More guidance is needed—more training on how to adopt best practice to individual circumstance. Individual teachers need to be invested alongside leadership. Technology and systems need to be mandated to enable the compilation of chronology and to identify trends.

“Jumping to conclusions due to media pressure or hearsay can be as damaging as doing nothing. Isolating sexual abuse and shadowing the many other forms of abuse and harm in schools can also be damaging. Those of us who have been fighting to get attention on wellbeing and safeguarding for all will want to see a more thorough and deep review of the level of risk across several topics. Very often, a child will experience several rather than one, given how they interlink.
 
12/04/2021