As we all know, any organisation that works with children should have safeguarding policies and procedures in place to ensure that every child is protected. Schools – and those who work within them – are particularly well-positioned to promote the welfare of their students. However, safeguarding is becoming increasingly challenging. Martin Baker, managing director at One Team Logic, explores a new approach that accounts for new challenges
Schools and colleges play a huge role in protecting the nation’s children and young people from abuse and neglect. Almost one in five (17.7%) referrals of children to social services last year came from schools, a total of more than 113,000 children.
But with cutbacks to public spending pushing children’s services to the limit, schools and colleges are increasingly having to step in to provide the support these children and young people need. With limited resources themselves, clearly a new approach is required in order to help safeguarding leads and their deputies to meet the needs of these vulnerable pupils.
Start at the start
A key first step is to provide safeguarding leads with the time and space they need to actually handle the role. Too often safeguarding is viewed as simply another task to be added to the existing workload of already stretched members of staff.
A more open attitude towards collaboration, both within schools and with other organisations, is necessary too. It is unrealistic to expect every school or college to have their own, in-house expertise on the many wide-ranging issues that fall under the safeguarding umbrella and, while previously they may have been able to turn to local authorities for this support, funding cuts mean this is often no longer the case.
Sourcing the skills
Yet that expertise may already exist within other schools; by working more closely together, schools and their safeguarding leads can tap into the experience and skills of safeguarding experts elsewhere to more ably tackle the challenges their own students are facing.
Greater collaboration with outside agencies should also be embraced; that said, it’s completely understandable that school safeguarding leads become frustrated with the referral process between agencies. Too often it can feel like an unpalatable game of ‘pass the human parcel’, with agencies apparently driven to ‘raise the bar’ in terms of the referrals they accept in order to manage their own workloads, rather than basing their decisions on the needs of young people. However, we can – and must – persevere, and improve these collaboration processes between agencies to deliver a more effective and efficient way of supporting pupils and their families.
A job for technology
Technology also has a far bigger role to play. It can help facilitate that collaboration both within and outside schools, ensure a greater understanding of each pupil’s individual needs and provide a greater support resource for practitioners. Technology should be viewed as a terrific tool in breaking through the bureaucratic chains to provide a faster and more effective route to safeguarding pupils.
There is no doubt that the will is there in the UK’s schools and colleges to provide the best possible protection to our children. However, we need to adopt a much more joined-up approach to make the most of the resources available to deliver the best possible outcomes.
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