Safeguarding students in schools covers a range of activity, all dealing with the protection of student wellbeing, health, development and safety. Safeguarding is the legal duty that education providers have to keep students safe from harm and abuse, and encompasses any action taken to recognise, reduce or eliminate the challenges impacting students.
Safeguarding is the end to end system, of having effective policies in place to protect young people, sufficiently trained staff to execute the processes set out, and consistently executed good practice.
Where young people are unable to recognise the support and protection they may need themselves, safeguarding practice is essential in ensuring that they can achieve the best outcomes available to them, without risk of harm.
But safeguarding isn’t a perfect science. Things can be missed, or overlooked. Our data showed that 72% of students had never disclosed details of harassment they had witnessed or experienced, showing a huge gap in the reality of what students are experiencing and what’s being discussed with staff.
Here’s some insight into what might be causing you to miss safeguarding cases, and what you can do to overcome these blind spots.
1. Relying on untrained staff
It is not the responsibility of your teaching staff to be experts in recognising warning signs and diagnosing student issues. Training is essential to give your team the best chance at knowing when to support students, but training will only take them so far.
Relying entirely on the ability of your team to support students won’t always work. It’s worth considering how you share the responsibility of identifying warning signs with those at the heart of the issue; your students.
Creating a culture where learners are educated and empowered in asking for help can reduce the pressure put on staff.
2. Warning signs might not present how and when you think they will
When anybody experiences trauma, there might be ways that we expect them to behave; withdrawn, switched off, absent, sad, angry. These are all key telling signs, but not guaranteed physical or emotional responses. Looking out for visible signs might delay the point of intervention in a safeguarding case.
Watch this video below and consider when you might intervene. Do you think the moment of intervention might change for other people in your team?
Would it be more effective to support students in speaking up as soon as the issue arose?
3. Unconscious bias
Unconscious bias can feel like a dirty word, especially within the teaching community. It’s never easy to sit and confront ourselves, and the idea that we may be having a negative impact on the outcomes or experience of students; as unconscious biases often can.
However research in the USA showed that although “teachers are probably more well-intentioned than the general population, but they still have the same bias levels”. In this blog we discuss how unconscious bias can impact our ability to safeguard learners, and how you can take steps to reduce the impact that bias might have on your decision making when it comes to taking steps to protect learners.
4. Students are hiding their needs from you
In our research on student experiences and perceptions of harassment in post-16 education we spoke to a number of students to get their thoughts on everything from how common harassment is in college/sixth form, to their views on reporting.
A running theme in these conversations was the need students felt to intentionally keep their support needs from staff. We found that this stemmed from the belief that they had reached a stage in life where they alone were responsible for resolving their issues; to speak up was to burden staff with problems that didn’t concern them. Another running issue was that of trust, with a number of students going as far as to say that they ‘don’t trust anyone’.
Our research showed us that there’s a lot of work to be done in creating spaces where learners feel confident to speak up when they need support. However what is also evident is that without this, there will also be a piece missing from the puzzle in effectively supporting students.
If you want to give your students a safe and secure platform for speaking up, book in a chat with our team today.