Culture of Vigilance – not easy to achieve but our core purpose!
The updated Keeping Children Safe in Education came out in May 2022 for implementation in September 2022. The 177 page document has been summarised on Twitter, LinkedIn and various other platforms and it is pretty straight forward to identify the main differences in the update (though we do need to read the full document!). Our primary function in the sector is to keep children and young people safe but how do we ensure this document is brought to life to create a culture of vigilance within our own education settings?
Here are our five Top Tips!
1. Risk is subjective - two heads are better than one (and a few more is even better!)
Though the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) must be a member of the Senior Leadership Team, to enable them to ‘direct resources’ to address need, a Safeguarding Team, with more than one trained DSL will not only provide resilience to this statutory post within the organisation but will enable a sharing of views as to how best to approach areas of concern whether that be to close a case, determine in-house support, safeguarding or child protection for an identified referral. Everyone has a different approach to risk dependent on their conscious and unconscious bias. By discussing cases as a team of trained DSLs, we can challenge each other’s approach to risk and consequently protect the child or young person in the best way possible.
2. Know more and remember more!
We wouldn’t consider delivering knowledge to our learners without checking they had understood and retained the key information but we do this with staff all the time. It is not uncommon for us, as school leaders, to stand in September (and hopefully more frequently) dutifully imparting our Safeguarding Update hoping that staff not only retain this information throughout the school year, but also be able to apply it. Frequent low stakes testing should become routine. At the start of a staff training session each month five questions on contextual safeguarding and updates to the School Self Evaluation Form on who the core people are will give staff a better chance of ensuring they know more and remember more of the safeguarding training they have received.
3. Involve all stakeholders.
This can be a tricky one as we don’t want to cause alarm or raise undue concern with our stakeholders, but if we truly believe it ‘could happen here’ then we need to ensure we provide an appropriate message to all stakeholders. Sending a regular safeguarding update to parents via social media or communication systems about for example ‘nudes’, ‘INCEL’ or ‘Child Criminal Exploitation’, may help them to understand risk and to look out for the signs, making them a more effective part of your safeguarding team to protect children and young people. Remind learners, in an age appropriate way, about how we keep them safe and as they reach adulthood, specific action they can take to keep themselves and their peers safe.
4. Statutory governance responsibility
It can be a challenge for lay people to understand the importance of the wider agenda and of course to get to grips with the acronyms, so we need to help them. Speak to the Chair to ensure they understand the significance of the role and work together to appoint someone from the Board with the necessary skills, characteristics and time! Make their visits a regular feature of the school day – meeting with key people, reviewing (auditing key documents like the Single Central Record for example) and speaking to staff and learners. But, also encourage them to make unannounced visits as only then can they truly talk about the culture within the school. You may also want to consider having two safeguarding governors to share the load and make sure you have resilience should the time come!
5. Supervision – of sorts!
As educators who are passionate about life chances for children and young people, the challenges and critical information that our safeguarding teams carry can be emotionally draining. If we don’t look after their well-being and emotional resilience, we leave them overdrawn and in no place to support our learners. Providing opportunities in a formal sense (as well as the benefit of informal conversation) to unload their case baggage and ensure they can build back their emotional resilience will only make the team more effective. One way to do this, and at the same time provide learning to improve practice, is to undertake a debrief of a few case studies each month as a team. Explore questions such as:
- How did we feel?
- How did we communicate?
- Were we effective?
- How do we measure success?
- What were our barriers?
- What can we learn to help us be better next time?
A culture isn’t created by preparing for Inspection, it is created by the deliberate actions of leaders to make safeguarding discussions common place and ensure we all know, as educators that it is everyone’s responsibility to keep children and young people safe within a challenging societal structure.
By Sarah Young (Young+)