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'Be prepared' on child care

IN WHAT is believed to be the first move of its kind in Scotland, South Lanarkshire Council is to issue guidance to its schools to update them on pupils' welfare issues.

Most teachers are unaware there are around 100 pieces of legislation and regulation that affect pupils' care and welfare, a study by the council has revealed.

It wants to borrow the old scouting motto of "Be prepared" by issuing brief guidelines to all staff on 17 different areas where they may need help - from school security to health and safety and children's rights. Patrick Morgan, vice-convener of education, described them as "ground-breaking".

Schools, the council warns, have to be more alert than ever because of spot welfare inspections by HMI, given extra weight following a high-profile report on Musselburgh Grammar. Other incidents such as the Dunblane shooting and a pupil suicide in Stornoway have highlighted the crises that can hit any school, officials say.

Tom Dingwall, head of Larkhall Academy, who chaired the working party that produced the guidelines, described them as "a set of signposts to which teachers and others can refer to in a hurry if necessary".

Pauline Raby, former school board chair of Crawforddyke primary in Carluke and parent member of the group, said: "Teachers are not aware enough, if I'm honest. There are so many pressures on them." She added: "My concern is that wherever your child is, that the people looking after them are concerned about their health and welfare. It's not just about keeping them safe but being stimulated and motivated."

Mr Dingwall accepted advice would have to be reviewed regularly, as areas such as use of the Internet were developing rapidly. "I would wish to review the guidelines regularly because my neck's on the line. If that does not happen there's an accident waiting to happen," he told the council's education resources committee.

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