Safeguarding. It’s a term we in education have become used to, but what does it really mean? Most teachers probably think it’s about protecting children from bullying, cyberbullying, and inappropriate content or behaviour online. But a brief glance at the Government's Safeguarding website demonstrates that there is much more to it.
What are you safeguarding against?
- Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Bullying, including online bullying and prejudice-based bullying
- Racist, disability, homophobic or transphobic abuse
- Gender-based violence, or violence against women and girls
- Radicalisation or extremist behaviour
- Child sexual exploitation and trafficking
- The impact of new technologies on sexual behaviour, for example ‘sexting’ and accessing pornography
- Teenage relationship abuse
- Substance misuse
- Issues that may be specific to a local area or population, for example gang activity and youth violence
- Domestic violence
- Female genital mutilation
- Forced marriage
- Fabricated or induced illness
- Poor parenting, particularly in relation to babies and young children
- Any other issues that pose a risk to children, young people and vulnerable adults
What that list illustrates is that schools have a lot to consider. In a future article, we’ll look at pupil red flags to watch for, but for now, let’s confine ourselves to a couple of key questions:
- Why should schools be concerned about Safeguarding?
- How can schools use data to try to make it easier to protect children?
Safeguarding is not something that schools can ignore, for three reasons. First, it’s a statutory duty. Indeed, Ofsted is going to look at a suggestion made by the Association of School and College Leaders to have two sets of inspectors going into schools. One would be concerned with teaching and learning and associated matters, while the other would be looking at compliance issues -- including Safeguarding.
Secondly, and this is a legal matter too, schools act in loco parentis, i.e. as the children’s parents while they are at school.
Thirdly, if only from a purely mercenary point of view, schools need to be concerned about the potential effects of pupil insecurity on their grades, and therefore the school’s standing in league tables.
Even without looking at any evidence, that third reason is obvious just from considering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A look at the ‘needs pyramid’ tells you that a person cannot realise their full potential until other, more basic needs, are met -- food, warmth, friendship and so on.
Turning to educational research, we discover that our intuition about this is borne out, and in ways that may be surprising. In a paper published in April 2017 entitled Children and Youth Perceptions of Family Food Insecurity and Bullying, Edwards and Taub found that children who go to school or bed hungry are more likely to engage in bullying or be the victims of bullying -- because food insecurity is associated with low social standing, i.e. it leads to psychosocial problems. So there’s a double whammy effect: lack of food in itself will obviously affect school performance, and that effect is exacerbated by the bullying aspects.
There is also research on the effects of bullying on school performance. For example, in their paper, Long-term effects of bullying, Wolke and Lereyer state that:
In the UK alone, over 16 000 young people aged 11–15 are estimated to be absent from state school with bullying as the main reason, and 78 000 are absent where bullying is one of the reasons given for absence.
These findings provide a starting point for schools. For example, if a pupil is engaging in bullying behaviour, or behaviour that is considered serious enough to be recorded in the management information system, might it be that they going hungry? You may already have had your suspicions from their appearance; perhaps the data will reinforce your beliefs. If a pupil starts to show erratic attendance, could that be an indication that they are too frightened to come to school?
Groupcall Emerge allows teachers to track and monitor patterns of behaviour, as well as write their findings directly into the MIS for future reference. Its usage has helped teachers up and down the country to improve both attendance and attainment in schools, as well as allow them a more flexible working life.
Other articles you may find useful are: