Safeguarding Children is Everybody's Business
Our duty of care and responsibility to report concerns.
Regardless of the many roles schools have in children's lives its most important role is that of protecting children from harm. We refer to this as our ‘duty of care’ or more commonly, ‘Safeguarding’.
On a basic level, this means promoting positive and supportive behaviours in school, ensuring visitors are checked and having a secure building. It means children knowing what is acceptable and what is not, and how to ask for help.
On a deeper level, this means working with a wide range of agencies that also have the interests of the child and family in mind. There are many agencies that the school have contact with, including:
Why we share information
It is our duty to assume that the worst could happen, regardless of how unlikely it is or what we assume we know. Please don’t be offended or upset if we ask questions or share information. This is easier said than done, but if we question or share information it shows that we are taking children’s safety seriously.
Many parents will recall the horror stories reported on the news around child deaths. They are upsetting and disturbing to read about, see and hear.
After deaths occur, or when a child has been at significant risk or harmed, agencies review practices to establish what went wrong and what worked well; these are called ‘Serious Case Reviews’.
A common theme in such reviews is that ‘communication was not good enough’ and that agencies have not shared vital information, some of which has been deemed trivial, unimportant or manageable ‘in house’. On too many occasions, basic but hard questions were not asked, or people did't believe that the worst case scenario could happen. Reports never criticize the sharing of too much information.
For this reason, Ashgate Primary School shares information and reports concerns, small and large to agencies who can act on them or investigate them. We do this for the wellbeing of children.
What is questioned and reported
Ashgate Primary School will consider a duty of care in the following four areas:
Actual or risk of -
The concerns may be small or large, simple or complex. As serious case reviews show us, even the smallest piece of information can be key to establishing a concern, or confirming that all is well.
The reality of sharing information
Sometimes parents or carers find questioning and reporting intrusive and unnecessary; after all, we all have our children’s wellbeing at the heart of what we do. Questioning and reporting can sometimes feel like a judgment is being made about the care of your child or children, what you do, or how you have acted. This is sometimes unavoidable, but necessary. Questioning and reporting is not a judgment, it is a practical and logical step to check that a child is safe and that their needs are being met.
Failing to ask questions and share information can, in very rare cases, lead to harm. When we ask, when we share and when we report, we are meeting our duty of care; we are protecting those who are most vulnerable…children. We are not judging.
Do schools have the authority to report?
Yes. As do we all. Anyone can report a concern to agencies. As a school, we have three qualified Designated Safeguarding Leads (Level 4) to support reporting, but all of us have the legal duty to report, regardless of role or position. And that includes you.
With this in mind, the Headteacher at Ashgate Primary School is a qualified Safeguarding Trainer (up to Level 2), trained by the Derby City Safeguarding Board, all staff receive at least annual training on how to recognise risks and how to report them, and a designated Safeguarding Governor is appointed.
Questioning and sharing does work
As a Designated Safeguarding Lead, for in the region of 10 years, I have reported concerns on countless occasions. Thankfully, the vast majority have led to nothing more than confirmation that all is good and that children and adults are not at risk. There have though been a small number that have led to actions put in place to protect a child. Whilst this is never pleasant, it is important to reflect that without initial questioning or information sharing, a child or adult would have been in harms way.
The rules on confidentiality
Schools have clear policies on confidentiality and sharing of private information. These are legally binding and often fall under the remit of the Data Protection Act.
However, concerns linked to safeguarding are not confidential and must be reported. What adults and children say and do that raise concerns for safety are not confidential. This can lead to confusion for some adults as it is believed that unreserved privacy is enshrined in schools and other public offices; for the most, it is, but not where safety is concerned. We cannot promise not to report, indeed we are duty bound to do so if a safeguarding risk may be present. This is not ‘going behind [someone’s/your] back’; it is the duty of care.
If you have any questions about any safeguarding matter, you should contact Mr Seargent, Headteacher, who is the Designated Safeguarding Lead, or in his absence, Mrs Forte, Deputy Headteacher and Deputy Safeguarding Lead.