Safeguarding is defined as protecting children from maltreatment; preventing impairment of children's health or development; ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.
On the surface it all appears simple: a teacher reports a problem and social services follow it up. But the reality is far murkier. Across the country, there is no common agenda, no agreement about when an intervention should take place or at which point social services should become involved. Different regions operate according to differing thresholds as to when they should step in, dictated by the resources available to them.
"This is a wider issue than education," says Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation and former chief executive of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. "There is a need nationally to define what we expect from social services and agree to that agenda, and then provide the resources to support that."
If we want teachers to do their jobs, we have to enable social workers to do theirs. And if we want to protect the most vulnerable in our society, we have to eliminate this desolate hinterland between schools and social services, between an unrealistic policy and a practical reality.
It is to our shame that we have this tussle between two caring professions. Teachers are not the problem. Social workers are not the problem. It is successive politicians who have failed children. And only they can provide the solution.