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BESA in conversation with SSS Learning

Sam Preston, Safeguarding Director at SSS Learning, talks to BESA about the key issues that schools should continually address

Posted by Lucinda Reid | November 27, 2017 | People, policy, politics

British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA): With the Christmas holidays just around the corner, what are the main safeguarding issues linked to the holidays that schools must be aware of?

Whilst amidst all the excitement of seasonal festivities that take place in schools and academies in the run up to Christmas, it’s essential to remember that for some children, holidays can be a challenging time. Continuity of Child Protection and Child in Need plans must be maintained together with close monitoring of Early Help Assessment action plans, paying particular attention to those families which may feel under more pressure during holiday periods. For families who experience financial challenges, alcohol and/or substance misuse difficulties or have a history of domestic violence, the festive season can often escalate these underlying themes. So as practitioners, as well as being vigilant it’s important to consider protective factors against these challenges.

The Christmas holidays is also a prime time for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to take place, as this allows more time for girls to “heal” before they return to school. If FGM is suspected, even if it’s not recently, all frontline professionals are legally obligated to report it to the police. If anyone (including teachers) is found guilty of failing to protect a girl from FGM, they can face a custodial sentence of up to seven years in prison. Given the wealth of legislation and offences relating to FGM and this direct reporting responsibility all staff should have access to their school or academy policy on FGM.

BESA: Bullying has been a hot topic lately, especially as the reporting rates has increased which may indicate improved support structures. What can schools do to encourage child victims of bullying to report it? 

Children will experience a variety of relationships throughout their life and, whilst most will be good, some may be unhealthy or abusive. As educators it is essential to enable both victims and perpetrators to recognise bullying behaviours, understand how harmful the effects can be and most importantly how to access help and support. This includes social bullying, abuse of consent, sexting and behaviour detrimental to physical wellbeing and mental health. Facilitating good conversations is key and, as we can’t predict who children will approach, it’s essential all staff are trained and feel equipped to understand, action and provide practical support. This may involve encouraging children to write or draw how they are feeling before a conversation to help them and you understand their feelings a little better.

BESA: In the context of the school funding crisis, how much is it affecting schools’ capacity to ensure children’s protection? In particular, schools’ CPD budgets are shrinking so how difficult has it become for schools to follow the SSS safeguarding compliance pathway?

Shrinking CPD budgets presents a dilemma - with an ever-expanding safeguarding remit, how do we maintain practice whilst balancing the budget? This may seem gloomy, however, there is a positive. Rather than send staff off on external courses or rely on consultants and cascaded training, there is the opportunity to embrace new training mediums through technology. A more cost-effective method of training and accessible throughout the academic year, e-learning also enables institutions to track individual progress. Just as in the classroom, high quality e-learning enables leadership to assess each member of staff’s progress and reassures them that practice is at the required standard. For years we have talked about “collective responsibility” to safeguard- finally schools and academies are moving towards a medium which facilitates this.

BESA: Are schools and academies ready for the GDPR deadline?

Despite having had two years to prepare, in short, most are not ready. Having conducted on site audits, it seems most schools and academies do not have the systems and training in place and there is still a lack of understanding of how to apply GDPR to safeguarding. Most would agree that this is not the most user-friendly legislation and part of the difficulty is in the interpretation of what it means to educational setting systems and practice. This legislation will affect everyone working in schools and academies, not just the administrative side, with personal liability for a regulation breach. From policies to practice, GDPR touches all areas in education.

SSS Learning GDPR governance and staff training will be available January 2018.

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