Cakes on sale? Call the safeguarding expert

31st July 2009 at 01:00

Success came late at night. Five hours of online toil on the National College for School Leadership's safeguarding website qualified my chair of governors for a celebratory 10pm Pimms. Tutorial and test completed, he now knows how to identify a paedophile.

So sighs of relief from the rest of us too busy to bother: our appointments will still be legal. For, without at least one "safeguarding expert" on any panel, interview decisions will have as much authority as ones made by the presidents of Iran or Zimbabwe.

I'm to be given the once-over as well: 35 years after teacher training, I'm having my first Criminal Records Bureau check. I'm hoping it won't hurt and there's a free Pimms at the end.

But it's Pounds 64 from the stretched school budget that could have bought some library books. In fact, the sums are worse than that. We've discovered that we have to do this CRB thing with every member of staff every three years. So with 250 people on the payroll, it's not just some library books I might be sacrificing - it could be the librarian as well.

A voice in my head tells me to ignore it all. Haven't good heads always exercised their judgment and done it their way? Local management of schools gave us freedom, after all. Ah, but Ofsted has a new torture called "a limiting judgment", which means a school can't score higher than "satisfactory" unless the "safeguarding checks" are in place.

That's why on the first day of term every employee at my school - from cooks, caretakers and cleaners to chemistry and clarinet teachers - will do child protection training. Hundreds of us in the sports hall. Welcome back, everyone.

It's the same in finance. We try to run our own budgets, but the auditors think they're in charge. There's that "limiting judgment" again, which means the fat financial controller rubs their hands and reminds me that Ofsted won't award grades one or two unless I have something to prove I'm trustworthy.

This time it's integrity, rather than morality, that's being sledgehammered. You have to pass your financial management standard in schools, the "fmsis" test. We call it "f ... ing sis", with the emphasis on the first syllable.

All this is designed to keep the staff and students safe. And happy too. But visiting Brazilian headteachers were amazed that physical affection, which they regularly show to children, is banned here. We can't sell cakes or biscuits either; they were astonished.

This is the mad world of Every Child Matters. Now we're going to be measured in wellbeing. They haven't worked out the happiness tests or even the curriculum yet, but there's still a month to go.

What a pity no one has told them that children won't actually be happy if that's the target. Working hard and achieving are the real ends. Happiness is just a by-product.

Still, I've set aside five hours for my safeguarding assessment and a day for my child protection training. I need to learn that odd behaviour and bruising are danger signs because I don't have the common sense to know that.

Then I might join my governor in a Pimms. I'm determined to be happy.

Ray Tarleton, Principal at South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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