The safeguarding of every student in your school's care is the responsibility of all your staff, and, right now, supporting young people is more important than ever. While many issues are related to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions, there are other influencing factors including Brexit, rising numbers of children in care and increasing numbers of students with English as an additional language, that are having an impact.
But what are these new safeguarding challenges and how can staff get up to speed with them? Here are nine key concerns that staff should be aware of over the coming months.
1. Supporting student wellbeing
For many pupils, the multiple periods of lockdown will have meant months in isolation and this will have had a huge impact on some students’ wellbeing.
The transition back to ‘normality’ will leave many feeling unsettled, and, in more extreme cases, students may require specialist support for poor mental health. A whole school approach to wellbeing is key and all staff should be given training on the most common issues to enable this.
The 5 most common mental health issues
- Conduct disorder
- Eating disorders
2. Bereavement and loss
Over the last 12 months, many families will have lost loved ones, both due to the pandemic and through other causes, and the grieving process may have been especially difficult. Many won’t have been able to say goodbye or attend funerals in the way they’d have liked. They may also have felt reluctant to reach out for support, not wanting to burden those with problems of their own. This will include children, parents and staff.
Teachers and support staff will be central to supporting young people during this process. From building relationships so children feel comfortable enough to speak out and being emotionally available, to providing information and creating a climate where children feel able to access resources, staff should be able to offer reassurance, using age-appropriate language that isn’t overwhelming.
3. Suicide awareness
Over 200 school children are lost to suicide in the UK every year.
With the additional challenges that the pandemic and restrictions have brought for young people, it’s more important than ever to provide support for students experiencing mental health issues and/or suicidal thoughts and offer additional help to those around them.
4. Safer recruitment
It’s written in statutory guidance for schools and colleges that a culture of safe recruitment is paramount, and schools should adopt a recruitment process that helps deter, reject or identify people that might put students at risk of abuse.
Educational settings now have the added challenge of recruiting with pandemic restrictions in place, but whether schools are conducting face to face or video interviews, it’s important not to cut corners.
5. Safer blended learning
As schools look set to continue to rely on a combination of face to face and remote learning into the longer term, it’s vital that safeguarding policies and procedures are updated and in line with the current situation, and that all staff are made familiar with any changes.
6. Looked after children
The number of children in care continues to rise hitting a 10-year high last year after increasing 28 per cent within a decade. So understanding the needs of a looked after child, a child’s rights in law, how to recognise the negative impact of being a looked after child and the importance of creating a positive impact are vital in helping to create an inclusive school.
7. Young carers
It’s important schools understand:
- Who young carers are
- What caring involves
- The impact caring can have on education, including attainment and aspirations, health and wellbeing and bullying
- How to address young carers needs
With the correct support in place the negative impacts of a caring role on the young person can be reduced.
8. Children with English as an additional language (EAL)
The proportion of pupils with English as an additional language has increased steadily in recent years. In the academic year 2019/20, the school census recorded:
Over 1 million pupils in primary schools with EAL (21.3% of pupils, up from 21.2% in January 2019)
Over 0.5 million pupils in secondary schools with EAL (17.1% of pupils, up from 16.9 % in January 2019)
To create an inclusive environment where EAL pupils can thrive and become part of the school community schools is growing in importance.
9. Adverse childhood experiences
Not everyone who has been exposed to ACEs will have negative outcomes, but understanding ACEs and the impact they may have on a child or adult will help support staffs’ work and relationships with children, young people and families. By identifying and addressing any concerns early and working in partnership with others, ACEs can be reduced in future generations.
Looking for more information? Download our free ebook, 9 key safeguarding concerns for schools right now, to ensure that all your staff have the essential information they need to protect all your students.