I took a particular interest in the evolution of child protection policies and their effects on education after our whole cohort lecture regarding Safeguarding and e-Safety. This interest has not led to some light reading, especially in the cases of Victoria Climbié and, more recently, Daniel Pelka. However, I feel it is vital for us, as teachers, to understand the steps that have been taken to shape the policies that guide our practice today and the importance placed on the safety of our pupils. As Ofsted put it in their “Safeguarding in schools: best practice” report; ‘There can be no issue of greater importance to parents and carers, or to schools, than the safety of their children’ (Ofsted, 2011). This importance is also reflected in the Teachers’ Standards document:
- A teacher must establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect. (TS1a).
- A teacher must communicate effectively with parents with regard to pupil’s achievement and wellbeing. (TS8e).
- A teacher must maintain good relationships with pupils, exercise appropriate authority, and act decisively when necessary. (TS7d).
These expectations have been influenced from many different reports and legislation from Government, both the previous Labour and current coalition.
The Every Child Matters (ECM) initiative came about in 2003 as a response to the death of Victoria Climbié at the hands of her guardians in 2000. The policy, based on the recommendations of Lord Laming’s report into the Climbié case, aimed to improve the effectiveness of the care agencies available to children. This included improved sharing of information between these agencies and a common framework of assessment of children and their circumstances to allow for a faster, preventative system to identify signs of abuse and neglect as soon as possible. The then Labour government outlined the creation of a local information hub which was accessible to all the agencies working with at risk children. The government also published a set of guidelines for staff working which children if they had concerns that a child in their care was being abused (link to article). ECM also targeted five key outcomes to improve children’s lives, especially those children who could be at risk. These were:
- Being healthy.
- Staying safe.
- Enjoying and achieving.
- Making a positive contribution.
- Economic wellbeing. (2003)
A variety of schemes were introduced to meet these outcomes, some through the education system and others through the wider community. I was wondering what the rest of you had seen during your placements that reflect these outcomes? For example, in my previous role as a teaching assistant, my school ran a breakfast club. The children were dropped off at school much earlier, allowing parents to get back into work quicker and provide their family a stronger financial base. The children who attended breakfast club would also cook and eat a healthy breakfast, which contributed to a more alert, active mind, ready for learning but also teaching the children valuable life skills when it came to cooking.
Although ECM put great importance on inter agency working and sharing information this still did not stop Daniel Pelka from being murdered by his mother and her partner in March 2012. Having read through the case review (link to review) published after Daniel’s death it was shocking to see that the mistakes made by the agencies working with the family, including Daniel’s primary school, were almost identical to the ones made during the Victoria Climbié’s ordeal. The case review highlights that Daniel suffered abuse and neglect for at least six months prior to being killed by a head injury. However, this review also mentions that the police had a log of twenty-seven incidents of domestic abuse relating to his mother and her partner. Teachers had also raised concerns regarding bruises on Daniel’s face however, there was no established system for logging these concerns and detailing the injuries to pass on to the child protection officer. They had also caught him scavenging food from other children’s lunchboxes and bins. His attendance was also very low, prompting the education welfare officer to speak to his mother. When she was quizzed on these alarming signs his mother passed them off as various reasons, lying to medical professionals, police officers, social workers and teaching staff.
Although ECM put great importance on inter agency working and sharing information this still did not stop Daniel Pelka from being murdered by his mother and her partner in March 2012. Having read through the case review (link to review) published after Daniel’s death it was shocking to see that the mistakes made by the agencies working with the family, including Daniel’s primary school, were almost identical to the ones made during the Victoria Climbié’s ordeal.
The case review highlights that Daniel suffered abuse and neglect for at least six months prior to being killed by a head injury. However, this review also mentions that the police had a log of twenty-seven incidents of domestic abuse relating to his mother and her partner. Teachers had also raised concerns regarding bruises on Daniel’s face however, there was no established system for logging these concerns and detailing the injuries to pass on to the child protection officer. They had also caught him scavenging food from other children’s lunchboxes and bins. His attendance was also very low, prompting the education welfare officer to speak to his mother. When she was quizzed on these alarming signs his mother passed them off as various reasons, lying to medical professionals, police officers, social workers and teaching staff.
This case links in with a phrase mentioned in our lecture; “think the unthinkable” and I think that as teachers we need to condition ourselves to think like this. In the case of Daniel, the members of staff at his school were too prepared to accept his mother’s stories without challenging them and as teachers we must guard against this. This may sound difficult to do though. We may have concerns about reporting things in case our suspicions are unfounded. Having said this, the safety of the children in our charge is paramount. Reading the review of Daniel’s case certainly highlighted to me the importance of discussing any concerns with your school’s Child Protection Officer. This way our vigilance will hopefully avoid voiceless, vulnerable children like him suffering in the future.
It would be interesting to hear from the rest of you about what you have seen in your schools in relation to safeguarding and child protection. I’ve also included the web addresses for a lot of the DfE articles I’ve used because you all might find them of some use.
The concept of e-safety is intertwined into many a professionals mind in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the young people within their immediate care and those who they hold a ‘duty of care over’. This is to ensure they model best practice themselves, ultimately reinforcing a zero tolerance policy towards instances of cyber bullying or even using online sites in appropriately, where children, young people and even vulnerable adults may unknowingly place themselves at risk through the content they may post or send on social media sites or even how they portray themselves online. Who can see what I post? What do I want them to see? Where am I posting this? Could there be any repercussions. From a personal perspective I believe that the majority of these questions are embedded into our ‘trainee teacher mind-sets’ as we have to be diligent and conscious regarding our online persona as today in the 21st century the internet is so readily accessible through computers, smartphones, TVs, tablets and other functional devices on demand anywhere in the word, very different to when we were at school which for some of us may not necessarily have been that long ago.
Understandably, the responsibilities of a teacher go beyond the general remit of those expected within the classroom, not only is there that implicit expectation that all children should learn and academically progress, but there is also a statutory duty of care which makes us responsible for the safety and welfare of all pupils. This has notably been emphasised consistently across our university based training, particularly within the ‘Contemporary Issues in Teaching and Learning ‘module (CITL) but is also apparent within the ever familiar Teacher’s Standards (TSS) which I’m sure in the lead up to Christmas and beyond will be embedded into our skulls, particularly when linking the likes of such to Pebble Pad and professional evidence. With particular reference to the TSS, the DfE (2013) underpin that all teachers must embed the following within their practice as a mandatory expectation;
- Establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect.
- Maintain good relationships with pupils, exercise appropriate authority, and act decisively when necessary.
- Have regard for the need to safeguard pupil’s well-being in accordance with the statutory provision.
Words which resonate from the above are – act decisively when necessary? How do we act? Where? Who to? Understandably every school, local authority will be different, however will follow similar protocol. It is particularly important to familiarise oneself with the safeguarding and e-safety policy of your school, the safeguarding officer, but also the relevant school policies too. However, something that resonates with me from my previous work prior to commencing study on the PGCE is that no detail is too small or insignificant, if you have any concern, write it down and speak to the designated person, it is always better to voice concern that to think its not relevant or minor for it only to be one instance in the line of ongoing troubles which may culminate in tragedy as was the case with Baby P and the VC case. Therefore, as trainee teachers, it is important to ensure we know the e-safety policies within our school. After all, within our prospective teaching careers, we will have to teach computing, e-safety and ensure it is taught at a suitable level for those in the class. For example some issues may be more pertinent within an upper Key Stage 2 class compared to those within the EYFS, however all should be addressed seriously and as a result should not be taken for granted.
As someone who was in upper secondary school when the likes of social media exploded onto the scene, I feel that I didn’t have a grounding or any instruction on how to deal with instances of online cyber bullying or how to keep myself safe online. Although I believe I was conscientious when setting up relevant accounts, looking back at my 13 year old self setting up Bebo and my peers, I believe a number of people did it to conform to the behaviours of the majority of the year group. However, today, with greater awareness of social media and the various forms it is embedded into our society within I believe it is important to ensure that children know they have a voice and if they have any concerns that they can talk to someone, whether it be a teacher, a relative or someone online. However, here I am not condoning talking to strangers online, I am however advocating uses of child line, the Samaritans and CEOP all of whom have online resources which are pitched at age appropriate levels to help children and young people online.
The aforementioned topic of curriculum changes now sees the concept of e-safety included within the primary computing curriculum at Key stages 1 and 2. Mackenzie (2012) notes that when Ofsted now inspect schools, they will consider how children and staff alike are protected when using technology, but furthermore how staff have been briefed and trained accordingly to then teach the children how to remain safe online. As a result the concept of the teaching of e-safety is seen as a vital life skill (Mackenzie,2012). This is particularly pertinent today as we live in a technology dominated environment, where technology is ever prevalent within our society. As highlighted above it is important to instruct and inform children of how to manage their online self appropriately and safely with the internet being so readily available. From a personal perspective, this made me think about these topical issues regarding teacher practice surrounding e-safety (Department for Education,2013).
After all, as teachers we need to be in tune with what children do on the internet, we should have the ability to listen and be willing to listen to our pupils and research new networks in order to educate ourselves regarding the potential risks our pupils may be facing online. However this needs to be embedded consistently across classroom practice.
Below, is an exemplar e-safety poster which I have seen used in schools to reiterate and reinforce how to stay safe online? It is clear, concise and visual providing children with a simple anagram through which to remember the key constituent components which surround the concept of e-safety.
Although I have seen this used across KS1 and KS2. I believe that this would be particularly effective at Key Stage 1 due to the visual nature and the simplistic breakdown of the key steps when advocating of E-Safety.
I believe this would be particular beneficial at KS2 also, however with further reinforcement, for example through use of videos. Not only do I believe its pivotal to educate young people on how to stay safe online, but I believe it is of further importance to educate young people to behave appropriately online and begin to empathise and think about their actions before they post. For example, websites such as those listed below may help teachers prepare children in developing the repertoire of skills required needed when faced with potentially harmful or upsetting content.
Further to the above it is important to recognise that children may be keeping themselves safe online they are at that stage when they may join age appropriate sites, or public sharing sites for example Instagram, where they may not realise how far one image they may upload could travel. As a user of Facebook and twitter I regularly see teachers on my news feed trying to get friends to share their image to reiterate to pupils once you put an image out in the public domain it will remain there forever, likewise, once you have written a comment or sent a message that too cannot be retracted. How would you feel if you received a nasty comment? How would that effect you? How would you feel if you saw someone writing something nasty about someone else? Do you think its acceptable to do it because someone else is?
The following clip is a trailer for a powerful movie called cyberbully which focuses on one girls decision to join a social media site, and the unexpected impact it has on her life. From a personal perspective it’s a powerful and slight tear jerker and could be used effectively in school to educate young people regarding online behaviour as well as keeping oneself safe online with passwords.
– Cyber Bully The Movie
*Potentially an extremely effective teaching resource*
Other potentially useful resources
I believe these are more pertinent at KS2 however I believe there are suitable alternatives and resources which can be used effectively within KS1. For example there are a plethora of games, and resources on
I believe these could be used as a fun way to briefly introduce the topic in an interesting, fun and non-threatening way across all primary classrooms, however prior to implementing these it would be important to ensure that the advice advocated within these resources coincides with the beliefs of those outlined within the relevant school or LEA’s e-safety policy, after-all children’s safety is of paramount importance.
It is continually reiterated to those of us on the PGCE that it is a fast track course. As a result it is understandably easy to feel overwhelmed at some points, due to the sensitive nature of the course regarding the levels of duties, and responsibilities that are expected of us over not only the coming months but also during the years of our prospective careers post qualification. This is particularly pertinent within sensitive areas like safeguarding and e-safety. However it is important to remember that although we are in a position of authority and hold a duty of care, we are not social workers, and if or when we believe a child may be vulnerable we should share this with the designated person accordingly to ensure that this minimises the professional responsibility we hold over any situation in question. Although it may not minimise or eradicate any emotions towards X, Y or Z case, however we can rest safe in the knowledge that there are actions and resulting measures in place to support those involved in order to ensure the safety of all (Department for Education,2014).
To summarise this post, I believe it’s important to be realistic and remind ourselves that we are not superheroes and we cannot always prevent children from accessing websites, games and social media, after all as emphasised throughout this blog post, social media is particularly prevalent within our society today. However, what is important is that children know the risks associated with communicating online and it is therefore
‘The schools ability to protect and educate pupils and staff in the use of technology and to have the appropriate mechanisms to intervene and support any incident where appropriate’ (Ofsted, 2012).
Department for Education (2006) What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused, London: HMSO.
Department for Education (2014) Keeping children safe in education: Statutory guidance for schools and colleges, London: HMSO. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/350747/Keeping_children_safe_in_education.pdf
Department for Education (2013) Teachers’ Standards: Guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies, London: HMSO. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/301107/Teachers__Standards.pdf
Lock, R. (2013) Final Overview Report of Serious Case Review re Daniel Pelka [online], Coventry, Coventry Safeguarding Children Board.Available: <http://www.coventrylscb.org.uk/files/SCR/FINAL%20Overview%20Report%20%20DP%20130913%20Publication%20version.pdf> [Accessed 9th November 2014].
Mackenzie (2012) The new ofsted e-safety framework, is your school ready? http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2012/sep/14/oftsed-esafety-guidelines-september-2012 . Accessed November 9th (2014).
Morris,S. (2013) Daniel Pelka: Professionals failed invisible murdered boy says guardian report Available: <http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/17/professionals-failed-report-daniel-pelka> [Accessed 9th November 2014].
Ofsted (2011) Safeguarding in schools: best practice [online], Manchester: Ofsted. Available: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/surveys-and-good-practice/s/Safeguarding%20in%20schools.pdf [Accessed 9th November 2014].
Ofsted (2012) Inspecting e-safety in schools. Available at: http://webfronter.com/surreymle/Esafety/other/OFSTED-Inspecting-e-safety-January-2014.pdf (Accessed 10th November 2014)
Safeguarding – S.Harding
E-safety – S. Mcneff