Safeguarding Challenges for Senior School Leadership (Part One)

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What are your school’s benchmarks for achieving safeguarding success? Passing your regular accreditation inspections might be one? Who establishes your safeguarding standards; the accreditation bodies, you or both? Are they based on ITFCP recommendations or higher?

Is success measured by decreasing numbers of recorded safeguarding incidents at school, or by the quality of your inquiries and outcomes achieved for children? Is it ‘the best interests of the child’ that forms the central measure of safeguarding achievement, or is it assessed by the expedience with which such matters are finalized?

Consider enhancing levels of confidence and understanding for senior leadership and establish a ‘safeguarding roadmap’ via an externally derived and tailored 112safeguarding audit.

Transferring Pupil Safeguarding/Child Protection Records (i)

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All safeguarding and child protection concerns must be recorded. Related discussion-points and rationales for decision-making should be recorded as part of each child protection/safeguarding file.

When children leave your school the Designated Safeguarding Lead (or equivalent) should forward child protection/safeguarding files to the new school ASAP. A secure transfer, separate from the main pupil files, should be arranged. Always obtain a confirmatory receipt for your records.

  • Retain copies for time period designated by school policy.
  • Retain files in line with school policy for students completing education.
  • If transferring school unknown, undertake enquiries, or enact your Children Missing Education (International School protocol).
  • Consider sharing information in advance of a child leaving, if appropriate.

Bullying (ii)

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Is your school’s ‘Peer on Peer Abuse’ and/or ‘Bullying’ policy fit for purpose? Children can abuse others; generally referred to as ‘peer on peer’ abuse and taking many forms including but not limited to: bullying (including cyber-bullying); sexual violence and sexual harassment; forms of physical abuse, sexting, and initiating/hazing type violence and rituals.

Bullying generally falls into three categories: relationship-based, physical and verbal. Bullying in most countries will not constitute harassment of a student based on their protected class such as gender, race, sexual orientation, disability or religion, as these areas are likely to form the basis of specific breaches within host country state-based, federal or other national or international legislative frameworks.

Children’s Development and Wellbeing (i)

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Life is busy and children and young people are often focused on their mobile phones and other technological devices. The recent decision in Victoria, Australia, to ban mobile phones for all students at state schools, reaffirms the importance of direct and unencumbered communication between people and indeed with our selves. Students will switch off their phones and store them in lockers from the start of the school day until the final bell. In case of emergencies, parents or guardians can reach their child by calling the school. Recreating an educational environment without the distraction of mobile phones, including lessening children’s exposure to cyber bullying, makes very good sense in child development terms.

Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) – UK – for International Schools (Criminal Records Check (i)…)

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International Schools outside the UK, no longer have access to standard or enhanced DBS checks. The practice was reiterated as unlawful last year by the DBS and is being stopped. Such criminal records checks can only be conducted by the DBS on behalf of organisations based in England or Wales.

International schools should be using the International Child Protection Certificate (UK) (ICPC) for criminal records checks in respect of UK nationals, or non-UK nationals who have previously lived in the UK and are now looking to work or are already employed overseas working with children. ICPC certificates are administered by the National Crime Agency (NCA – CEOP) and ACRO Criminal Records Office

Corporal Punishment (i)

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This is a common issue being managed in many International Schools across the world. The challenge is to find a balance in terms of policy, practice, cultural context and response. Some are working hard to underpin their school’s safeguarding ethos with a UN informed approach.

Research findings concerning the harmful physical and psychological effects of corporal punishment in childhood and later life, and the links with other forms of violence, make compelling arguments for banning the practice thereby breaking the cycle of violence.

Safeguarding Committees should be placing this issue on their agenda for further development and review. I have produced a Corporal Punishment Research Paper for schools and CPOs to consider.

Safeguarding & Child Protection Audit (i)

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If your International School is serious about safeguarding and child protection, ask the question whether it is time you organized a bespoke school-safeguarding audit?

If you are in the early stages of developing your school’s safeguarding related policies and procedures, training, protective environment or culture, this could be a relevant and informative place to start. If however, you consider everything is effective and efficient, maybe an audit or review of your strategic and operational child protection practices is still warranted?

Is it time for you to conduct an internal audit, a peer review by a DCPO from another school, or alternatively an independent external review?

Minimum safeguarding accreditation standards: ITFCP Essential Questions

SEXTING – Youth Produced Sexual Imagery (i)

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Some adults and professionals consider sexting ‘… sending or posting of sexually suggestive images via mobile phones’. Young people tend to think of it as sharing explicitly written or intimate messages with friends. Parents also tend to think of messages rather than images.

More recently, following deficiencies in existing legislation, together with need for greater clarity for law enforcement agencies, education authorities and criminal justice systems, greater emphasis has been placed on a definition which covers the creation and sharing of sexual photos and videos of under-18s. Predominantly this activity is illegal in many countries. It also leads to the greatest complexity for schools and other agencies in response.

CEESA Article ‘SEXTING’

Recruitment (iii)

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I continue to work on cases involving poor teacher recruitment practices in International Schools.

A recurring theme is inadequate pre-recruitment checks. Potential recruits can lie or falsify records about where and for whom they have worked if comprehensive due-diligence checks are not undertaken.

Those teachers ‘found out’ mid-contract can too easily be released back into the global ‘teaching pool’ if allowed to resign without sanction or details of their misconduct being passed to member schools, umbrella associations, and teacher registration boards where appropriate. This effectively condones their behaviour and enables continuing safeguarding risks where they might secure subsequent employment.

School discipline procedures and potential criminal breaches should be considered at these times.

Bullying (i)

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Historically bullying was considered something that one set of children – bullies – do to another set – victims. Research shows a significant proportion of children who are experiencing bullying, also bully. Techniques for helping children extract themselves from a bullying culture include them understanding and talking about their losses and gains and why they are involved in such behaviour.

When asked why they bully many children say, ‘…because we don’t like that person’. They sense that if you don’t like someone it’s okay to be nasty – an attitude absorbed from others. Changing such relationships requires engaging children in thinking about how they think about and act towards the kinds of people they don’t like.’