When preparing for a job interview, the chances of being faced with a safeguarding question are pretty likely. Heads and governors will want to see a knowledge and experience of safeguarding best practice and being able to answer this question with confidence will make a great impression.
Although currently there is no mandatory legal requirement on teachers in England to report either known or suspected child abuse or neglect, this could soon change. A number of recent high-profile cases have led to calls for stronger reporting duties, backed by criminal sanctions, to be placed on professionals working with children and young people.
We asked Eve Piffaretti, Partner at Blake Morgan LLP, what teachers are expected to know and what they can do to improve their knowledge of safeguarding.
Why must all teachers have knowledge of safeguarding?
"Teachers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of pupils in their care arising from the common law duty of care, statutory duties such as those set out in Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Children's Act 1989 and by virtue of their contract of employment.
"Your individual responsibility will depend upon your role in relation to safeguarding in your school or college. A serious failure to prevent harm to a child arising from a failure to report concerns could constitute a breach of this duty of care and result in a claim for negligence against you and your school for which your employer may be held vicariously liable. As a consequence you could also face disciplinary action and subsequent referral to your professional regulatory body.
"In addition, the Teachers’ Standards which define the minimum level of practice expected of trainees and teachers from the point of being awarded QTS require teachers to have regard for the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being. This is in accordance with statutory provisions as a means of upholding public trust in the profession and maintaining high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school."
What safeguarding experience will a new employer want to see evidence of?
"Employers will want to see evidence of an up-to-date knowledge of safeguarding practice and training and should ensure that stringent recruitment and vetting procedures are in place for all staff.
"You may be asked about your understanding of safeguarding best practice, your involvement in safeguarding or your own motivation in working with children. For example:
- What training have you undertaken on safeguarding children in the last year?
- If you have a safeguarding concern about a child in your class, what action would you take?
- Safeguarding and the well-being of children is central to the ethos of our school. How would you contribute to making the organisation a safer environment for children?"
How can you improve your knowledge of safeguarding?
"All staff, including supply teachers and fixed-term teachers, should receive mandatory induction training and appropriate training and supervision on safeguarding issues on a regular basis. You should, at the very least, ensure that you are aware of at least Part One (and Annex A) of "Keeping Children Safe in Education" (September 2016).
"This statutory guidance sets out current best practice in terms of what all teachers should know and do. You should, therefore, take its contents into account and, if they depart from it, to have clear reasons for doing so. You should also familiarise yourself with the policies and procedures for dealing with/reporting suspected child abuse in your school, academy or college."
What can you do in your current role to gain safeguarding experience?
"Your schools, academy, college and local authorities should have established systems for regular on-going training and professional development of all staff who have contact with young people. They should also have systems that ensure accessible consultation and support for any staff in schools who may be in a position to identify concerns.
"Make sure you become familiar with the organisation's particular ways of working and follow this. Also, actively draw on the expertise of other agencies and professionals."
Are there any additional payments for teachers who lead on safeguarding?
"Each school, academy or college should have a designated safeguarding lead who takes lead responsibility for safeguarding and child protection. This should be explicit in the roleholder’s job description.
"This teacher should have the appropriate status and authority within the school to carry out the duties of the post and be given the time, funding, training, resources and support to provide advice and support to other staff on child welfare and child protection matters. They should also be able to take part in strategy discussions and interagency meetings – and/or to support other staff to do so – and to contribute to the assessment of children.
"The lead (and any deputies) should undergo training to provide them with the knowledge and skills required to carry out the role. This should be updated at least every two years. The School teachers’ pay and conditions document 2016 and statutory guidance on school teachers’ pay and conditions" (September 2016) sets out the provisions for teachers’ pay including circumstances where additional payments can be made."
Eve Piffaretti is a Partner at Blake Morgan LLP. She specialises in safeguarding and child protection law and has a particular interest in children and young people's rights.