The role of staff in education establishments
Staff in education establishments are well placed to observe physical and psychological changes in a child which might indicate abuse. Teachers are likely to have the greatest level of day- to-day contact with children and they are able to contribute a great deal to the assessment of vulnerable children. Staff should always share information regarding any concerns about a child with social work, health police or the children’s reporter. Teachers also have an important role in delivering personal safety programmes in education establishments and nurseries. These should equip children with the skills, knowledge and understanding to keep themselves safe.
Head teachers and managers in education establishments
Head teachers and managers of establishments should ensure that child protection procedures are followed and that records are kept in a confidential file.
Procedures should be made known to all new and visiting staff. A South Ayrshire Council power point presentation is sent out annually to be used at the beginning of a new session.
Positive working relationships with social work, health, police and other agencies involved in child protection should be established.
Child protection and child safety should be promoted within the curriculum, both formal and hidden. Staff training should reflect this.
An ethos of protection and care should be fostered within all education establishments.
Parents should be aware of the child protection procedures and the general content of child safety and child protection within the curriculum.
Teachers and other staff
- All staff in education establishments must follow child protection procedures.
- All staff should know how to respond to a disclosure or suspicion of abuse.
- Staff should be clear that a guarantee of absolute confidentiality cannot be given to a child or young person.
- Staff should be confident in delivering child safety and child protection as part of the curriculum.
Children and young people
Children and young people should be encouraged to seek help from an adult they trust if they think that they may be in an abusive situation or if one of their friends or classmates is in an abusive situation.
They have the right to expect that their teachers and other adults will take any disclosure seriously and will work together to protect them from neglect, exploitation and all forms of abuse.
Role of Child Protection Co-ordinator (CPC)
Whilst all staff in education establishments have responsibilities towards children and young people, the protection of children and the efficient operation of the school’s child protection procedures can be facilitated by the designation of a senior member of staff with a special responsibility for co-ordinating child protection within the school.
Each establishment should have a designated Child Protection Co-ordinator (CPC) and, where appropriate, a deputy.
The CPC would have both general and particular responsibilities with regard to child protection.
- ensuring that all staff are aware of the child protection procedures and any amendments to them
- supplying new and visiting members of staff with a written copy of procedures and emphasising their importance
- co-ordinating staff training on child protection, including an annual reminder to all staff of the procedures
- overseeing the planning of the curricular provision for child safety and child protection
- liaising with other agencies, e.g. police, social work, the Reporter and other government and local authority departments, on general issues relating to child protection
- listening and responding to general concerns raised by staff, children and young people and parents or guardians in relation to child protection, for instance, by informing parents of the school’s policy.
- co-ordinating action within the school in relation to specific children about whom concerns have been raised.
- Ensuring appropriate measures for the recording and secure storage of child protection information and files.
- Review and update child protection files and chronologies
- Liaising with staff to ensure appropriate information is shared and support given to children.
- delegating responsibilities to the most appropriate person, e.g. in situations where the CPC may not be the most appropriate person to support a particular child when an allegation has been made.
In some instances it may be appropriate for the head to be the Child Protection Co-ordinator, e.g. in a small school. Whoever is appointed should receive training, at the earliest opportunity, to equip them for the task. It may also be advisable for the CPC to have a recognised deputy. This is important in cases of illness, leave, or where allegations are made that involve the Child Protection Co-ordinator.
Parents and volunteers in education establishments
Education establishments are a focal point in the community and attract willing parents and community members who wish to assist in a wide range of activities. Some of these activities involve access to children and young people and it is the intention of this guideline to assist head teachers in ensuring that all reasonable steps are taken to protect children while they are under the care of the local authority.
Who would be checked?
Although not exhaustive, the list of persons to be checked (PVG) would include any adult who has substantial and unsupervised access to children.
Responding to concerns in education establishments
This section details the procedures that should be followed in responding to concerns about a child or young person where there is a concern or suspicion of abuse. In general, it should be remembered that collaboration with other agencies is the key to responding appropriately when concerns arise. In a situation where there is uncertainty as to how to proceed, an informal conversation with a duty team leader should clarify the most appropriate course of action.
How concerns may arise
Concerns about child abuse usually arise in education establishments in the following ways:
- A teacher or other member of staff has concerns arising from knowledge of the child and from observing changes in the child’s behaviour or appearance, or from things the child has said.
- A child discloses to a teacher or member of staff that abuse has taken place or that the child feels unsafe.
- A third party expresses concerns to a member of staff; this could be a parent or guardian or another child or young person.
- An anonymous allegation is received.
A member of staff suspects abuse or a child tells of abuse
Staff may suspect abuse by the presence of physical signs or from a feeling that all is not well with a child.
It is appropriate for a member of staff to make casual enquiries of a child about how an obvious injury was sustained, or why the child appears upset.
Where there is any suspicion of abuse, staff should not enter into detailed investigation of the symptoms or causes of the child’s distress or injury. Such an approach could prejudice later formal investigations.
The role of school staff is to observe, record and report. Staff should:
- observe carefully the child’s behaviour and demeanour
- record in detail what the staff member has seen and heard and when (Any signs of physical injury should be described in detail or sketched. When recording, words actually used by the child or young person should be quoted.)
- report their suspicions or disclosure as quickly as possible to the Child Protection Co-ordinator or head teacher.
The following points should also be kept in mind:
- A guarantee of secrecy or confidentiality must not be given to the child.
- Any initial questioning or discussion must be limited to establishing if there is reasonable cause to believe the child is being abused or is at risk of abuse. Once the possibility of abuse has been established discussion should cease.
- Open-ended questions must be used
- The member of staff conducting the interview should not introduce any personal experiences of abuse or those of other children into the interview.
- The child must be told that the head teacher or Child Protection Co-ordinator (CPC) will have to be informed.
- The matter must be referred to the head teacher or CPC immediately (this must always be done without delay).
- Notes must be taken, dated and signed as soon as possible and recording should not delay reporting.
- Even when there has been no formal referral to the social work service, notes should be kept in a confidential record.
A third party expresses concern
A member of staff to whom a third party expresses concern should:
- observe the behaviour or demeanour of the person expressing the concerns, where this is done in person
- record in detail what they have seen and heard and when they did so, with the actual words used being quoted where possible
- report the matter to the Child Protection Co-ordinator
Those expressing concerns may seek a guarantee of confidentiality. No guarantee of confidentiality can be given. The protection of the child involved is the main priority and it will be easier to take action to protect the child if the person making the disclosure is willing to be identified. If legal proceedings follow, it may be necessary to disclose the identity of that person.
Where the concerns are expressed by another child or young person for whom the school has responsibility, it should be remembered that reporting suspicions of abuse may be traumatic for a child, and some support may be advisable.
An anonymous allegation is received
Staff in receipt of anonymous allegations about child abuse should:
- Record in writing the words used, so far as possible, where the allegation is by telephone, or retain the paper, where it is in writing.
- Report the matter to the Child Protection Co-ordinator or head teacher.
Action by staff in all cases
- Action must be taken once a disclosure has been made, whatever the source of the disclosure.
- The person to whom the disclosure was made must inform the head teacher or CPC immediately, on the same day as an allegation is made.
- The member of staff should also record, date and sign the information given.
- This information must not be shared with any person other than the head teacher or CPC.
Action by the head teacher or child protection co-ordinator
- All reports of alleged or suspected abuse must be treated seriously and as a matter of extreme urgency.
- The school should collate all the information that is known about the child at the time. It should be remembered that it is not the school’s role to investigate the allegation or suspicion, but to gather together what information it has about a child and pass it to the social work service if this is the course of action decided upon.
- If the CPC is certain, or has a very good reason to suspect that a child has been abused or requires protection, he or she should phone the social work service immediately, ask to speak to the duty social worker, state the concerns and the basis for them. This information should be followed up in writing to the social work service within 24 hours using the Notification of concern form. A copy should also be sent to the social work manager and the officer with responsibility for Child Protection in Education. A copy should be placed in the Child Protection file.
How much can parents or guardians be told without breaching confidentiality?
In circumstances where a parent is suspected of possible abuse, advice should be sought from the investigating social workers or police officers. If the child has been detained beyond the end of the school day, consideration must be given to how the child will get home.
At the end of the meeting, a decision should be made about whether there are concerns which require a referral to the social work service. Referrals should be made where there is any substantial suspicion. Proof is not required at this stage. If there is any doubt about whether to refer, the social work office should be advised in any case of the circumstances of the allegation and the school’s doubts about it.
Minutes should be kept of the meeting, together with a record of the reasons for the decision to refer or not to refer. These should be kept in a confidential file within the school. All those at the meeting should be reminded that all matters must be treated confidentially.
Where the conclusion is that there may be grounds for suspicion that a child has been abused or is at risk of abuse, the CPC should immediately inform the school’s local contact in the social work service.
Child abuse allegations against staff
There has been a growing awareness that the abuse of children can take many forms.
Part of this awareness has been the recognition that, although occurring rarely, the abuse of children can also be carried out by those who are charged on society’s behalf with their care and protection. This fact has been particularly highlighted by the media.
Recognising the sensitivity of this, where an allegation is made against a member of staff, it must be taken seriously, and the principles and procedures outlined in these guidelines must always be followed.
In these circumstances particular attention must be given by those receiving or investigating information to ensure that different standards are not applied. Any allegation against a member of staff must be taken seriously, and there must be at least a preliminary consideration of it by the head teacher of the school. If the conclusion after such consideration is that the allegation is completely unfounded, the decision to take the matter no further should be recorded, together with the reasons for the decision, and the information placed in a confidential file.
A member of staff may wish to seek advice and support from his or her professional associations in these circumstances.
When an allegation is made or suspected against a member of staff:
- The person receiving the allegation must inform the CPC or head teacher immediately. Where the allegation is being made against the head teacher or CPC, the member of staff receiving the allegation must inform the Head of Children’s Services.
- On receiving information the CPC or head teacher must then immediately notify the Head of Children’s Services who would take any necessary action regarding informing the police.
The CPC or head teacher must take advice from the Head of Children’s Services about the need to:
- remove the member of staff from access to children
- suspend the member of staff
- inform the parents or guardians of the child concerned
- to inform the parents of all children and young people with whom the member of staff has come into contact
- to inform the reporter where it is known that a child who is on supervision and/or in care is alleged to have been abused.
Abuse by other children and young people
This may involve:
- physical harm
- emotional harm e.g., bullying, racial harassment
- sexual abuse
In the case of minor incidents of physical and emotional harm , the school’s normal disciplinary procedures should apply. In more serious cases, the head teacher will have to decide whether to involve the parents of the victim and the alleged perpetrator. The head teacher may wish to discuss with the victim and his or her parents whether there should be police involvement.
The same procedures should be followed as for other allegations of abuse.
Allegations of abuse made on a school trip
Any member of staff operating within a school’s jurisdiction with responsibility for children on a school trip must be aware that, while on the trip, the children are the responsibility of the school’s head teacher. Staff in these circumstances must follow the required procedure and must be able to contact the CPC or head teacher.
Children with additional support needs
There are several additional factors to bear in mind when the possibility of abuse of a child with Additional Support Needs is being considered:
- Children with additional support needs can be particularly vulnerable to anyone who seeks to abuse children as it may be more difficult for them to communicate.
- Failure to recognise signs and symptoms and confuse the abuse with the impairment.
- The child may be isolated and vulnerable to bullying from peers
- Impaired capacity to avoid or resist abuse.
Asylum seeker and refuge children
Children and young people who are seeking asylum or are refugees may be particularly vulnerable for a variety of reasons:
- Language barriers
- Past trauma and experiences
- Racism and discrimination
- Lack of resource
Police and social work interviews in school
Under normal circumstances, any interview with a child at school should take place only with the consent of, or in the presence of, a parent. The exceptional circumstances in which interviews may be permitted without parental consent are:
- The child seeks the interview
- A child mature enough to understand the situation voluntarily agrees to speak to a social worker, or to the police, so long as the child is not a suspect
- A parent is alleged to have abused the child.
- An immediate interview is essential to allow a criminal investigation to proceed
- The child is a suspect and the police have been unable to contact the parents, or the parents are suspected of involvement in the offence, and it is necessary in the interests of justice, to interview the child immediately. In this situation, the head teacher or a deputising teacher should be present.
Guidance on staff interaction with children and young people
When providing support for any child or young person , in particular for a child where abuse or risk of abuse is an issue, staff should take account of the need to protect themselves from allegations of impropriety. They may also need to set limits to contact in order that children do not develop a dependence of trust in adults which could render them vulnerable to exploitation by others.
The following list gives guidance on staff interaction with children and young people:
- Demeaning or suggestive remarks should never be made to or in the presence of children or young people.
- Staff should always consider the appropriateness of being with a child or young person on their own, especially if this involves being out of earshot or vision of a colleague.
- Sufficient adults should be available to provide proper supervision of children on trips, especially residential excursions.
- Staff should always be able to justify physical contact with a child in any situation.
- Physical contact in order to provide care for a child should only involve a level of contact necessary to provide such care.
- Some children with special needs will require a higher level of physical care than other children of their age but the physical contact involved should be limited to that necessary to provide such care.
- Physical contact involving restraint should involve the minimum of force necessary to protect a child or young person who is at imminent risk of inflicting harm to self or others or to damaging property
If one member of staff has to use physical restraint, another member of staff, where possible, should be summoned to witness and assist.
If a member of staff has concerns about a relationship that is developing with a child or young person on the side of either party, then these concerns should be shared with a senior member of staff.
There is a need to produce a staff code of conduct around this issue. There is a clear requirement that staff will not engage in a sexual relationship with children and young people of any age and it is an offence to do so.
Protocol for holiday cover
During school holiday periods there are protocols in place in place to ensure that appropriate information is available and shared at case conference meetings.
Domestic abuse alerts
Police share information about domestic abuse incidents.
Domestic Abuse Alerts are sent from central admin to the school child protection co-ordinators to enable them to monitor individual children. A copy of the alert should be placed in the child’s PPR or Child Protection file. The child’s chronology should be updated.
If the child is under five Health will inform the nursery.
Child protection alerts and de-alerts
When a child protection investigation is underway a Child Protection Alert is sent to the education establishment. A copy of the alert should be placed in the child’s Child Protection file and the chronology updated.
Similarly, de-alerts should be added to the file and the chronology updated.
Non disclosure of place of residence or whereabouts
A children’s hearing or Sherrif can impose a condition that any place where a child is to reside must not be disclosed.
When notification of a non disclosure of a child’s address is received information will be sent from central admin to education establishments.
Please remove the child’s home address from Seemis / Click and Go and replace with the school address. A record of the non disclosure and the child’s home address should be placed in the child’s PPR and in the notes area of the pupil record in Click and Go (clearly marked Non Disclosure).
Some children are ‘looked after’ because they have experiences neglect or abuse. The safety, wellbeing and achievements of these children is vital to minimise the risks of future harm. Looked after children should have in place a Care Plan. Staff in schools should contact the child’s lead professional.
Cameras, filming and image messaging
Education establishments should make it clear in their handbook the policy for the use of cameras during events, shows and other activities.
Parents should provide explicit consent to their children being photographed or filmed.
Use of internet
The internet is has brought many opportunities and benefits for learning however it is used on occasions inappropriately and unlawfully.
The best protection of children lies in the safe use of the internet wherever they are. All children should sign the consent form for the safe use of the internet as part of their education of safe practice.
Education establishments should consider the use of mobile phones by children and staff across the school.
They may wish to consider areas of the school in which mobiles cannot be used such as changing rooms, toilets and classrooms.
Prior to a school Validated Self Evaluation education establishments will be asked to complete a Child Protection information proforma. This will provide an overview of current practice and procedures in each establishment. During the VSE visit the lead officer will discuss this information with the Child Protection Co-ordinator and / or Head Teacher/ Manager.
During the visit the lead officer will also sample files, records and observe practice. At the end of the visit they will complete the VSE Report (CP) and discuss any point arising. A copy of the form will be sent to the officer with responsibility for Child Protection in education.
Clear and accurate sharing of information is vital in the protection of children. Children, young people and their families have a right to respect privacy and confidentiality and information shared should only be with professionals who need to know for the benefit of the child, young person and family.
All professionals have an obligation to safeguard the confidentiality of personal information. Where there are child protection concerns agencies have a duty to share information.
Recording and filing child protection information
The procedures for recording, filing, storage and retention of child protection information is set out in the file guidance for education establishments.
All establishments should adhere to this to ensure that there is consistency in the recording and storing of information and that key information is readily accessible when required. The Child Protection file should be kept separate from the PPR. A file will be opened for a child once a referral is made or an alert is received.
Gypsy and traveller children
School staff should generally be aware that:
- some families move as work opportunities arise or to be with extended family networks, so children enrolled at school can be withdrawn suddenly, and may leave no indication of where they have gone or for how long. Families may not always know their forwarding address before leaving
- a positive relationship with families obviously increases the likelihood of being informed. Where possible, schools should keep in touch with families, while they are travelling.
- when due dates of return are known ( e.g. for children of families whose work is seasonal) and if the child does not arrive as expected, school staff should inform the authority Child Protection Co-ordinator who should follow procedures for tracing children missing from education.
- Positive relationships and open communication with gypsy and traveller parents will help schools maintain links with families and include them positively when they return from travelling
- Communicate sensitively. There is a strong oral tradition among gypsies and travellers. Low literacy levels means communication with families must be developed without reliance solely on written communication. Where formal procedures or meetings are required, this must be borne in mind
- It is helpful to have good contact with local authority and health staff who also liaise with gypsy/traveller families, to facilitate the exchange of information.
- Staff should attempt to ensure that the child’s right to education and their right to express their views is sensitively supported
- Schools and education authorities may find it useful to refer to guidance produced by the Scottish Executive, STEP, and Learning and Teaching Scotland, called, Inclusive Educational Approaches for Gypsies and Travellers within the context of interrupted learning www.scotland.gov.uk/resources/travellers.pdf and also Delivering for Scotland’s Gypsies/Traveller’ www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/justice/dfsgt-00.asp