Safe Guarding Primary School Children
Safe guarding is an umbrella term for protecting children. The obvious one we are safeguarding children from is abuse from adults and also other children while they are at school but also recognising if a child is being abused at home or in another place as well. Abuse can be hard to define and comes under four different categories:
Children fall over all the time, they play roughly with other children and to see bruises on children is not uncommon. However, when changing for P.E, swimming or other school activities and you notice bruising on a child’s body where it can be hidden or on the back of a child e.g. the backs of children’s legs, then this should be a cause for concern and should be followed up. You could simply ask the child where they got the bruise from. If the child thinks of an answer for a long time then this should also be concerning as they may be trying to come up with a cover story to hide what really happened. However if the child says they fell over backwards in a natural manner then this should be logged but is not necessarily a sign of physical abuse. However, we should look out for more bruising in the same place on another occasion.
Sexual abuse in primary school children is thankfully rare, however it is usually carried out by a close family member or family friend. This is hard to spot and is usually not found unless a child talks to you about it.
Emotional abuse is also hard to spot and it is also hard to prove in a court of law. Emotional abuse can consist of bullying by a family member or friend. It can also be blackmail in exchange for feeling loved. Again this is hard to spot unless a child talks to you about it.
Neglect can mean not being washed, not having clean clothes to wear or food to eat. It can mean not having a bed to sleep in, or toys to play with. Neglect can also mean not giving the child the emotional support needed or the attention at home. Neglect is becoming more widespread as more families are forced below the poverty line. If caught early, social services can help families who find themselves below the poverty line and can help parents meet the needs of their children. Although social services have had some bad press over the years, they are still a very good organisation to help families who need additional support in meeting their childrens needs.
As primary school teachers we are on the front line for being able to help safeguard children from abuse if we spot it or if a child talks to us about it. It is a legal requirement for schools to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under the Education Act 2002, S.157, 175. It is also part of the Teachers Standards to safeguard and promote welfare of all the children in the school, not just in your class. As a teacher, a child may feel they are able to trust us enough to be able to tell us if anything is happening to them at home or even at school as it could be abuse from another child. Primary schools will have a policy in place when these things do happen and this is to protect and support the child but also to help protect and support the teachers as well to deal with these revelations. It is therefore important to know your schools safeguarding policy because if a child does report something to you then you know what to do in order to help that child as quickly as possible.
In the school I am at, they’re safeguarding policy is very thorough and is as much about helping the child as it is about helping the member of staff who is made aware of something harming that child. My school also made it clear that safeguarding may start with the teacher but after something is reported it is then a multi agency response to help that child. These include social services, police and local authorities.
However, safeguarding children is not just about spotting or reporting abuse to a child. Safeguarding is also about things such as inclusion at school for children who don’t have English as their first language, children who have disabilities or special needs. Schools will usually have speech and language support, reading and writing groups, spelling groups and even policies to help children make friends in the playground. Schools may even have psychologists working with them to help children who need support or counselling. All of these come under safeguarding children and promoting their welfare while at school.
Ofsted take safeguarding very seriously and have their own policy on it based on the Children’s Act 2004. Ofsted describe safeguarding as:
- protecting children and learners from maltreatment
- preventing impairment of children’s and learners’ health or development
- ensuring that children and learners are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
- undertaking that role so as to enable those children and learners to have optimum life chances and to enter adulthood successfully.
The Ofsted policy is a wide ranging policy and is very helpful for schools to use to shape their own safeguarding policies. However, Ofsted have noted that only 19% of schools inspected had an outstanding safeguarding policy which clearly shows safeguarding in schools is an on going activity and policies need to be constantly reviewed as does training for all teachers and other staff.
Children are using the internet more these days and many of them are on social media sites such as facebook although you have to be 14 in order to use it. Therefore we need to make sure we are aware of the sites children are using both in school and at home. If children talk about using facebook or other social networking sites then this needs to be reported to parents so they can monitor who they are talking to online as children will not be able to tell who they are actually talking to behind the pictures. There is not a lot we can do from a teachers perspective in regard to sites they use at home and in school we only use approved school sites however, if we hear a child is having problems on social media from other children then we can address this. The national curriculum does state we teach e-safety and educate children on the dangers of using the internet and to not give out any information to people you can not see. We can also warn children of the dangers of some site such as pornography sites, pop ups and other sites such as anorexic sites or sites about unhealthy obsessions. The more we educate our children about using the internet, hopefully the safer they will be.
- Children’s Act 2004
- Education Act 2002, S.157, 175
- My schools safeguarding policy/ training manual