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New survey reveals increase in safeguarding concerns in schools 

The National Governance Association has released its Annual Governance Survey 2023 (8 September), shedding light on growing concerns over trends in safeguarding and behaviour across schools and trusts in England. 

One of the most alarming revelations on the survey was the substantial rise of safeguarding concerns in the last year (22/23). Over 55% of respondents reported an increase in safeguarding concerns, while only 3% reported a decrease.  

Neglect, domestic abuse, and bullying, including cyberbullying, emerged as the top three concerns. Notably, self-harm also surfaced as a prevalent worry, with a noticeable upward trend. 

The survey also showed that financial concerns are growing, challenging behaviour in pupils is increasing and satisfaction with the government’s performance on education is at an all-time low among governing boards, amongst other things. 

James Bowen, assistant general secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “This report shows that school leaders and governors are very much on the same page when it comes to their concerns about schools. Balancing the budget and a recruitment and retention crisis are issues that concern leaders and governors equally. 

“When it comes to mental health, these worrying findings sadly echo what we hear from school leaders. 

“In the wake of the pandemic, and now cost of living crisis, a perfect storm of rising demand following a decade of under-investment in vital community services means schools are finding it harder than ever to access external help when they identify pupils in need of support. Staff who were already stretched are increasingly having to act as social workers and counsellors and this is not sustainable. 

“The government must ensure that every school has fully funded mental health support available for their pupils and invest much more in social care, CAMHS (children’s and young people’s mental health services) and other frontline services so they can meet growing demand and reduce waiting times.” 

On the finding that 4 in 10 of respondents said their school buildings were not in good condition, Mr Bowen added: “This chimes with what our members tell us and shows that the school buildings crisis extends far beyond issues with RAAC. 

“It is a legacy of a decade of government cuts to maintenance, refurbishment and rebuilding of the school estate. This adds further weight to our call for the current emergency to be a turning point which finally prompts ministers to produce a long-term plan supported by significant new funding to ensure all school buildings and safe and fit for purpose.” 

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