How do we effectively safeguard and protect our children? This is a core question for all schools and society as a whole. For Phil Cooper, senior officer at School Improvement Liverpool, it’s one that he contemplates daily as he regularly supports schools across the city in their work to safeguard and protect children. Educate magazine caught up with Phil to find out what the role involves and why it’s so important.
Tell us a little bit about your role.
Phil: It has been my privilege to work in or with schools for over 25 years across a number of local authorities. In my current role as Senior School Improvement Officer for safeguarding and inclusion with School Improvement Liverpool, I have the opportunity to collaborate closely with schools and other agencies and appreciate that safeguarding children is everyone’s first priority.
Who has responsibility for safeguarding children?
Phil: It’s everyone’s responsibility and everyone’s business. School leaders and governors establish an ethos and culture where safeguarding children is at the forefront of everyone’s thinking and permeates all of the school’s work. Effective schools ensure:
• they understand their responsibilities to work in partnership with other agencies to safeguard children
• safer recruitment practices are adhered to and all job descriptions reflect individual and collective responsibilities
• key safeguarding messages are present around school, including in the front entrance and the staffroom
• the school development plan includes strategies to further enhance the school’s work to improve the welfare of children
• staff and school leaders are highly visible around school
• staff briefings and meetings regularly revisit the school’s procedures
• everyone maintains a culture of vigilance and oversees a safe environment
What should schools offer children?
Phil: It’s important that children are listened to and understood if they are to thrive. Effective schools ensure:
• all children feel safe in school
• all children can identify an adult who they can turn to if they have a problem
• children feel confident that any concerns they may have will be resolved
• all children are treated with respect regardless of any differences
• children’s views shape the school’s practices
• children with additional welfare needs have an identified adult to support them
• any additional plan to support a child must take account of their individual views and wishes
• children who aren’t attending school regularly are seen frequently and supported to attend
How should schools work with families?
Phil: All families can face difficult and challenging times. Schools, together with other agencies, often work in partnership with families to help them get back on track. Effective schools work in partnership to ensure:
• they understand the specific issues families can face
• children and families are provided with coordinated support at the earliest opportunity
• they support families to build resilience to cope with any additional challenges
• they recognise and build upon families’ existing strengths and support networks
• they support families to identify what is working well, what may need to change and how this can be achieved
• everyone is collectively focussed on achieving positive outcomes for the family and specifically the children
What policies and procedures should be in place?
Phil: Central to effective safeguarding in schools is the development of an overarching safeguarding framework that strives to promote consistent practice through a range of policies and procedures. Effective schools ensure:
• induction and regular on-going training provide opportunities for all staff and volunteers to understand the school’s and local procedures
• staff and volunteers have a clear understanding of how to respond to indicators of harm where a child may be in need of support or protection
• the school’s child protection policy is available to all staff, volunteers and families
• staff and volunteers work to an agreed ‘code of conduct’ or ‘safer working practices guidance’
• expectations in respect of children’s behaviour are made clear to everyone
• anti-bullying and equal opportunities policies promote respect and tolerance
• the school develops a range of additional policies to support its work, including a School Emergency Management Plan
• there is a highly trained safeguarding team who work together and intervene to support children identified as in need
• the safeguarding team have an understanding of local ‘levels of need guidance’; referral mechanisms and escalation/resolution procedures
How can we empower children?
Phil: Children, even from an early age, need to learn how to stay safe and become resilient. As they grow older they also learn about risk and how to develop positive healthy relationships. Effective schools ensure that:
• children learn how to behave appropriately towards other children
• Personal Social, Health and Economic Education and also Sex and Relationships Education are key components of the school curriculum
• staff are effectively trained to deliver a safeguarding curriculum
• external agencies contribute to the delivery of the safeguarding curriculum
• lessons, assemblies, tutor time and enrichment activities are drawn upon
• noticeboards around school together with the school’s website identify agencies and resources that can provide further support to children and families
• families themselves are supported to learn how to keep their children safe including when they are online
Want to know more?
If you would like to learn more about the safeguarding training or services School Improvement Liverpool offers:
or visit: www.schoolimprovementliverpool.co.uk/teams-safeguarding
• Visit Liverpool Safeguarding Children Board website to learn about the work of the Safeguard Children Board including that of the Young Advisors.
• Liverpool’s Early Help Directory available online provides families and agencies with a comprehensive directory of services and support locally.
• There are lots of curriculum resources for schools and families to draw upon. As an example, the NSPCC website provides information about the Speak out, Stay Safe programme for schools and also the Share Aware and Let’s Talk PANTS resources for schools and families.
• The Department for Education provides statutory safeguarding guidance for schools. Keeping Children Safe in Education states ‘School and college staff are particularly important as they are in a position to identify concerns early, provide help for children, and prevent concerns from escalating.’