Fortnightly Safeguarding Briefing

10th February 2020

Safeguarding Network - Confidence in safeguarding

Welcome to your latest briefing

As we write this, Storm Ciara is beating its way across the United Kingdom leaving a trail of destruction.  For many of us, it presents a minor inconvenience to our plans (and we are not ignoring the wider debates about the causes of such storms but instead thinking on a more practical level).  For some children and their families however such weather can mean that their home conditions deteriorate further, clothes and bedding are constantly damp and families are living on top of one another as they cannot get out and about. By the time you read this, the main brunt of the storm will have passed, but the impact will be felt for days to come.  It is therefore important that we support these families wherever possible, even if only to assist on a very basic level in the first instance.

Our briefing this week centres around three awareness raising events that are coming up:

  • Ofsted report into multi-agency responses to sexual abuse
  • Lack of progress and cultural capital
  • Safeguarding supervision
  • Sexual violence and sexual harassment
Image of person lying on side

Ofsted - The multi-agency response to child sexual abuse in the family environment

Published on the 4th February, this report is part of the joint targeted area inspections completed by Ofsted and partner inspectorates.  Some of the key issues the report identifies are as follows:

  • Sexual abuse within the family environment needs to be talked about.
  • Child sexual abuse in the family environment is not a high enough priority.
  • Professionals find this area of practice very difficult.
  • Preventative work is absent or focused on known offenders.
  • Professionals rely too heavily on children to verbally disclose abuse.
  • When children have displayed harmful sexual behaviour, often it is solely their behaviour, not the cause, that professionals respond to.

The report rightly identifies that sexual abuse is something that even experienced professionals find difficult to talk about and that this has an impact on identification and discussion.  The report also suggests that when we do talk about sexual abuse "we use language that can minimise the abuse or imply consent".

In order to reduce the barriers that have been identified we need to increase our knowledge and reduce the stigma, and Safeguarding Network will be developing resources over the next month to help with this.  In the meantime, it may be useful to start to think about what the barriers may be in your organisation and how well equipped your staff are to spot the signs of sexual abuse.

Cultural capital and safeguarding

For schools, cultural capital is something that is probably mentioned in many different conversations each week as it has been part of the Ofsted Inspection Framework since September 2019, with inspectors considering "the extent to which schools are equipping pupils with the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life" (p.13).  Its introduction has led to a number of debates as to whether it is a positive or "cementing cultural conservatism" as set out by this Guardian article (the article also provides a helpful background as to what cultural capital means).

Regardless of your individual view there remains a question about whether a lack or progress or attainment for an individual child is down to a lack of cultural capital, or whether there are wider issues which are impacting on the child's ability to learn.  There is a growing body of evidence (e.g. this American research) to suggest that emotional issues and childhood stress (both pre and post birth) can impact on a child's brain development which can then impact on academic ability and internal control mechanisms.  Stressors can include poverty, adverse childhood experiences, homelessness, domestic abuse and parental substance misuse to name but a few.  Therefore it is important that if a child is not progressing as expected we look at the whole picture and ask the question "is there something I need to be worried about?"

Two people meeting

Safeguarding supervision

Both Keeping Children Safe in Education and Working Together place an emphasis on organisations ensuring that staff have access to support and supervision, and for schools this is embedded within the inspection guidance.  Whilst some organisations have supervision in place, for others, supervision is not a concept that is embedded in daily working practices.  For organisations that have supervision in place, the challenge is whether safeguarding is integral to the supervisory process.

Our latest safeguarding insight looks in depth at the case for providing safeguarding supervision, together with some of the features of effective supervision drawn from the research.  Our safeguarding insights are in-depth, researched articles looking at specific areas of practice and are free to all.

Sexual violence and sexual harassment online learning

For approximately the last year there has been an increased focus on the issues of sexual violence and sexual harassment, as well as the wider issue of peer on peer abuse.  Schools and colleges often do not recognise and take action on sexual violence or sexual harassment between students. The guidance, last updated in May 2018, defines sexual violence and harassment, sets out schools’ and colleges’ legal responsibilities, describes potential whole school strategies and specifies how to respond to reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment.

Safeguarding Network members have access to presentations, quizzes, scenarios and a self-audit tool to support organisations in putting in place strategies to minimise sexual violence and sexual harassment and to improve recognition and response to this form of sexual abuse.  We have now introduced an online learning session and quiz to ensure schools and colleges have taken a robust and consistent approach to ensuring their staff and leaders recognise this abuse when it happens and take a considered and proportionate response.  For more information see our elearning page.

Who are we?

Safeguarding Network recognise that the demands on organisations are increasing from every aspect. Safeguarding is no exception. Using our front-line safeguarding experience and knowledge we develop resources to help organisations meet their safeguarding requirements with the aim of helping lighten the load.

Visit https://safeguarding.network/subscribe for more information.

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