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Teachers are on the front line in the fight to protect children, says Sara Bubb

As a teacher, you're in a unique position to safeguard children. You'll be the one to notice any differences that may indicate something's wrong. Refer concerns to the named person in the school who will pass information on to the social care people who in turn decide what should happen.

There are six key things that schools must do: designate a senior member of staff for child protection; provide a safe environment; use the curriculum to contribute to child protection; act if children go missing; recognise and act upon significant harm; have live policies and procedures on child protection, restraint, allegations, bullying and racism.

There are three key things schools must not do: ignore any child protection concerns; fly solo in carrying out their investigations; use any form of corporal punishment.

Issues over confidentiality are important. You can and must disclose information if you think the child's welfare is at risk, even if it was given confidentially.

There are heaps of myths about not touching children but you can, as long as it is appropriate. Equally, you can use reasonable force to prevent young people from injuring themselves or others.

Are any of the girls you teach having "special" holidays? The Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development says about 66,000 women in England and Wales have undergone female genital mutilation and about 21,000 girls under 16 are at risk of becoming victims. It's illegal here and adults who aid or abet the operation, in this country or abroad, can be prosecuted. The police are enforcing the law through Project Azure. Don't be tripped up by claims of racism.

Graham Griffin, Lambeth's Safeguarding Children manager, says: "It's scary, but we must not be bullied into inaction. Our duty is to protect all children irrespective of their cultural background." Abuse is abuse.

Sara Bubb is an education consultant specialising in induction. For more information, visit www.sarabubb.com.

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