Safe working practices

All organisations employing staff and / or volunteers to work with children, young people or vulnerable adults need to ensure that safeguarding is inherent throughout their organisation and schools are no exception.

Keeping children safe requires all organisations to have a culture of safeguarding and vigilance.  Working with children, young people and their families also comes with risks for us, both physically and emotionally.  In order to be an effective practitioner you need to feel safe, secure and supported by your organisation, but also know that your organisation prioritises keeping everyone safe.

All organisations employing staff and / or volunteers to work with children, young people or vulnerable adults need to ensure that safeguarding is inherent throughout their organisation. What does your school do to ensure everyone is safe, for example does your school have a safe care policy?  How would your school prevent abuse such as that perpetrated by Nigel Leat (abused children in a primary school over a number of years) or Jimmy Savile (found to have sexually abused many children and young people)?

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How does your school keep everyone safe?

As a member of school staff do you know:

  • how to contact your headteacher or principal about a concern?
  • what to do out of hours?
  • how to record your concerns?
  • about the LADO and how to contact them?
  • accept the principal that ‘it could happen here’?
  • where you can find a copy of your staff code of conduct and what it says?
  • what your professional standards are if you are a member of a registered body?
  • what the process is for whistle-blowing if you feel your concerns are not being addressed?
  • how to identify visitors to the school and whether they should be escorted whilst on school premises?
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Low level concerns

What would you do if you had / if someone came to you with a low-level concern?  Would it even be identified in this way?  Often people will have “niggles” or a “gut-feeling” that something is not right but not know what to about it because they have nothing that they would consider substantial.

Research identified in a 2017 report suggests that where an individual is setting out to abuse children they will look to erode boundaries and test out how far they can go.  These tests may not necessarily being linked to safeguarding boundaries but more about seeing what sort of culture the school has.  This testing of boundaries can then also become part of the grooming process, allowing the perpetrator to understand the way in which colleagues and the senior leadership team respond.

  • How would your school deal with low level concerns?
  • Is there a culture of openness where staff feel able to approach senior leaders with “niggles”?

What is the school's safeguarding culture?

Does your school:

  • have a clear managing allegations policy?
  • have a code of conduct that is regularly updated?
  • ensure that staff are aware of the requirements of the code of conduct and the reasons for these?
  • have a whistle-blowing policy that is up to date?
  • have a safer recruitment policy that starts with at the point the advert is placed and is inherent throughout the whole recruitment process, regardless of the role being recruited to?
  • have a culture where staff accept that ‘it could happen here’?
  • have an open culture where any concerns (low-level of otherwise) can be reported and followed up as required?
  • run regular exercises to check staff understanding?
  • have clear expectations on visitors and contractors about their conduct whilst in school?
  • ensure that the children and young people are able to identify who is a member of staff, who is a visitor, who is governor, etc.

Remember, children in school are indoctrinated to have the view that any adult in school is safe and therefore we must make sure that all adults regardless of whether they are staff or there to fix the air conditioning are safe to approach.  If not then either they are escorted at all times or not allowed on the premises.

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Ofsted myth busting:

The following is taken from the Ofsted website, updated in July 2018:

There is no expectation or statutory requirement for the routine checking of personnel files by inspectors. Inspectors may look at a small sample of personnel records. Ofsted does not have expectations about the format in which staff records are maintained.

Ofsted does not expect schools to retrospectively apply for references for staff appointed prior to and continuously employed since the introduction of the vetting and barring requirements.

Ofsted does not expect schools to take any specific set of steps about site security. Schools should assess the risks posed within their own context and take appropriate and proportionate steps to keep children safe. In particular, inspectors do not have a pre-determined view on the need for perimeter fences. They will consider each school’s site security on its own merits.

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Join safeguarding network for more information on how to promote safe working in schools.

  • Training resources for Safeguarding Leads to use in team meetings;
  • Reference documents for additional information;
  • Handouts for school staff summarising each topic;
  • Quizzes to test staff understanding.
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