CCT 3 - Child Protection

Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, Information and guidance April 2006 sets out how individuals and organisations should work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children by:

  1. - creating and maintaining a safe learning environment for children and young people
    1. - identifying where there are child welfare concerns and taking action to address them, in partnership with other organisations where appropriate
  2. - contributing through the curriculum by developing children’s understanding, awareness and resilience.

a) Briefly identify your placement school’s current practice in response to this duty.

b) For one of the above, explain how the classroom teacher can contribute to the fulfilment of this duty.

Current practice at the placement school

The school’s Child Protection Policy document was last updated in 2009 and was made available during a meeting with the Assistant Head in charge of pastoral matters. The policy has five main elements:

  1.  Checking the suitability of staff and volunteers during recruitment.
  2.  Raising awareness and equipping children with the skills needed to keep them safe.
  3.  Procedures for identifying and reporting cases of abuse.
  4.  Supporting abused pupils through their agreed plan.
  5.  Establishing a safe environment in which children can learn and develop.

The policy describes the role of the ‘Named Person’ in referring issues to social services, keeping confidential records and ensuring that all staff know about their responsibilities.  Staff are given advice and procedures to follow if they have concerns or a pupil discloses abuse.

The final section of the policy describes strategies to help with the prevention of abuse.  These include promoting a positive supportive and secure environment; developing policies around bullying, drugs and PSHCE; and including activities in the curriculum that equip pupils to stay safe, know who to turn to, and develop realistic attitudes to the responsibilities of adult life (particularly in relationship to childcare and parenting skills).

The role of the classroom teacher

In this section I will be looking at the ways in which the classroom teacher can help to fulfil the second duty in the list; to identify where there are child welfare concerns and take action to address them, in partnership with other organisations where appropriate.

When a child is abused, they may show symptoms as a result.  For example, a child who has been subjected to sexual abuse may engage in inappropriately sexual behaviour or become isolated or withdrawn; after suffering physical abuse, a child may be unable to explain injuries or wear excessive clothing to cover them; emotional abuse may cause a child to become self-depreciating, or display extremes of passivity or aggression; while a neglected child may be constantly hungry, have poor personal hygiene, or display destructive tendencies.

A classroom teacher is in a strong position to notice signs such as the above, and it is possible that they will be the only person who will notice that something is wrong.  For this reason, it is very important that any concerns about the possibility of abuse should be referred to an appropriate member of staff.  Obviously, the signs mentioned above are not necessarily indicative of abuse, but if a pupil exhibits a number of symptoms or any of them to a marked degree, then an immediate referral is both appropriate and imperative.

In practice, the teacher should report their concerns to the pupil’s form tutor or head of year.  It is possible that other teachers have also expressed concern and a clearer picture will emerge.  Either way, discussing concerns in this way will help to determine if they are indeed likely to indicate abuse.  If so, the school’s ‘Named Person’ should be contacted immediately.

In addition to noticing signs of abuse, a pupil may choose to disclose their abuse to a teacher.  In this situation, the teacher is arguably under an even greater obligation to act.  If the child is let down, then they may never trust another adult with their story again.  The teacher must stay calm and reassuring, listening to the child without asking leading questions or promising confidentiality.

In the case of a disclosure, the teacher must write down everything the child says and immediately refer their report to the relevant member of senior staff who will deal with the situation appropriately.  It is this member of staff who should take action to safeguard the pupil’s interests, for example contacting social services or the police.  In order to avoid isolating or causing further problems for the child, they should be involved in decisions about the necessary steps to protect them.

In summary, the role of the classroom teacher is twofold.  Firstly to be alert to any behavioural symptoms that might indicate abuse.  This will involve being aware of the tell-tale signs and noticing changes, even subtle ones, in the behaviour of pupils in their classes.  Secondly, the teacher should aim to be approachable at all times, and if a pupil chooses to disclose the abuse they are suffering, then the teacher must act calmly and responsibly and refer the disclosure to ensure that preventative measures can be put in place.