Ann Marie Christian, discusses why she encourages independent schools to foster a vocal safeguarding communications culture to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect.
Families and staff have known each other for decades, and are very trusting of one another.
Because such close-knit relationships exist, independent schools can sometimes face a challenge of ensuring that everybody within the school community feels able to raise concerns when they arise.
Making it easy to offer challenges and raise concerns is the hallmark of a truly open safeguarding communications culture.
Speaking the language of safeguarding
The emotive term ‘safeguarding’, can itself, create a block to schools talking openly about the topic – internally with staff, and externally with families. Discussing safeguarding as an integral part of promoting ‘wellbeing’, or initiatives to support it, can liberate the conversation.
Some schools have introduced a ‘nagging form’ to encourage young people to confidentially submit any doubts they have about their school. Children might use it to report a behaviour change in one of their peers or a teacher, who’s been tearful or shouting a lot. This encourages a listening school that is open and transparent and the Head would then process the forms and seek appropriate advice from key agencies i.e. local authority, human resources, NSPCC etc.
Instilling the safeguarding-wellbeing ethos in the relationship between school, staff and families, can help open up the conversation around safeguarding throughout the school.
The school application process for families also presents an opportunity for schools to get an insight into their dynamic. It’s a chance to communicate that they will work in partnership with families to promote their child’s wellbeing, establishing a positive narrative of cooperation.
A prime example of this was where a school had made a referral to Children’s Social Care that was rejected. On reading it, it was clear to me there was a child protection issue, but the school hadn’t known how to present it correctly. I rewrote the referral focusing on the needs of the child and highlighted the absence of the parenting capacity and the decision was overturned and the case was allocated for an assessment.
Engaging with your Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) – or a safeguarding consultant – can help schools understand how to present their concerns.
More about Ann Marie Christian
Ann Marie provides support to independent schools wanting to instil an open, vocal safeguarding culture in their settings. She works with independent schools to ensure they are compliant and have appropriate policies in place. She really encourages and supports schools to become more vocal in seeing what’s in front of them and empowering them will keep children safe.
You can find out more about Ann Marie and her work here: http://annmariechristian.com/
Meet Ann Marie and hear her speak at the Northern Education Technology Conference on the 15th May 2017 in Leeds.