So, you’re designated safeguarding lead. 7 lessons I’ve learnt so far.

In the 15 years that I’ve been teaching, I’ve been given many roles. Since September 2016 I’ve been the school’s designated safeguarding lead. This post shares some reflections, one term into the role, with the aim that others in the same situation may find it useful.

No training ever prepares you fully.

Like every role within a school, CPD is vital, especially around the latest guidance. Of course, any Ofsted inspection will pull apart a school’s safeguarding routines, policies and systems, but no course really prepared me for the mental and emotional investment that the role demands.  When a member of staff turns up at the door with an issue, a trip leader contacts you from a different country or a student is in school but in tears and self harming, there isn’t anything that could have prepared me. What does help is being a father and trying to make the best decisions. Vitally, the role is about supporting staff and not only students. What has struck me about the job is that it involves problem solving skills and major diplomacy, tact and emotional intelligence. All areas that I have to work hard at.

Top tip: All actions needs to be thought through in order to avoid unintended consequences. 

Safeguarding is the most important priority in the school.

The first mission of any school is to get students in to school and then to keep them safe. That responsibility rests on us not only from legal frameworks, but also our moral obligation to the parents and carers that trust us. Ultimately, if students aren’t safe from harm and in school, they can not engage with the academic activities which is the main purpose of an educational institution. You can’t unlearn what you learn which brings an emotional burden. I grew up with domestic violence and so I find it difficult sometimes to deal with. Running and boot camp helps!

Top tip: Develop mantras around safeguarding that become habits for staff and develop a culture where staff are confident to refer concerns. 

Get a team that can share the responsibility

I’m very lucky to have a brilliant safeguarding team. My deputy is especially great. This half term (7 weeks) she’s attended 60 meetings and help me deal with 140 referrals, train all of our staff and other safety issues and self evaluate our procedures. They also track the LAC and post-LAC students so have a case load of 20 students on top of the safeguarding duties. Our behaviour manager is also ace. The important thing is that we meet each Friday to go through the week. We talk daily to share the burden that the knowledge brings. What is sure is that it’s a job that can’t be done alone, especially the parts that are heartbreaking and anger inducing. Our Head’s PA is also exemplary as her job is to keep our Single Central Record up to date, which is a massive job in itself.

Top Tip: You can;t share the knowledge that you gain so set up habits and routines with a solid safeguarding team to share the emotional burden and to talk ideas through.

Learn that much of the job involved chasing staff

Chasing radicalisation online training, DBS certificate renewals, keeping everyone’s safeguarding training current, nagging about wearing ID and lanyards, reminding staff to get parents to sign in, ensuring that all have read chapter one of Keeping Children Safe and have signed to that effect.  Our staff are brilliant and, quite rightly, focused on the classroom so it’s gentle reminders.

Top tip: Staff are very busy, but remind them of their moral and legal duty to keep children safe at every opportunity.

Much of the job is about strategic planning and systems

The NSPCC website is brilliant as it contained the main changes and policy that schools need in place, however safe guarding is more than a tick box exercise of having policy in place. It’s about ensuring that the school’s culture and daily operation lives and breathes the notion of keeping children safe. After all, it’s our most important responsibility. Much of the job has involved ensuring that there are systems in place (for example, signing in procedure, new staff induction, what to do with referrals, how to make a referral, intruder procedure) and that the key staff know exactly what to do. It’s also involved making pretty sign in notices, badges and videos. Keeping staff in the loop is a constant challenge. There’s a fine line between essential information and a fire hose of information overload. There’s also a fine line between making a school welcoming and outward looking to its community and protecting young people. Coming from Portsmouth where secondary schools were like fortresses, it does worry me at how open the schools where I currently work are.

Top tip: Get trained well, don’t be afraid to contact the MASH schools link and LADO for advice: there isn’t ever a stupid question. Go to the local network meetings.

The line between teacher, social worker and parent becomes blurred

No doubt that the core purpose of a school is teaching and learning and to generate the best outcomes for each and every individual. Trouble is, some of those individuals have difficulty in accessing the fantastic teachers that we have. With reduced budgets agencies such as social services, police, CAMHS are all over stretched, stressed, under resources and at breaking point. It’s also clear that many issues are parental responsibility, although sometimes the parents aren’t able or willing to take that responsibility. In these situations there is a simple choice. Ignore them and maintain that teaching is what we are here for or carry out our moral and legal obligation that overrides every other aspect of school: keeping children safe.

Top tip: Remember that our moral obligation is to keep children safe. Schools often identify issues first, Act and never ignore.

Are you the designated safe guarding lead? I’d be interested in hearing your top tips or if the ones above are wide of the mark.

Image Credit used with a Creative Commons Licence.

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