Flaws in pupil welfare cover

27th January 2006 at 00:00
Chief inspector says teachers need more training in child-protection measures. Nicola Porter reports

Nearly one in 10 Welsh primary schools has shortcomings in their arrangements for child protection. Too many youth-support services also allow staff to begin work before making the necessary Criminal Records Bureau checks, according to the annual report of Wales's chief inspector of schools.

The revelations follow weeks of controversy over sex offenders being allowed to work in schools (TES Cymru, January 20).

Susan Lewis, chief inspector, said staff at the schools concerned did not get enough training and were unclear over local authority procedures for child protection. Many work-based learning providers also do not have suitable policies and training in place for protecting children, with a few failing to make any CRB checks on staff, according to her annual report for 2004-5.

Ms Lewis told TES Cymru: "I want to make it clear that most schools do have clear procedures for child protection.

"What some teaching staff in primary schools lack is training in arrangements for child protection - that might mean they haven't been trained in spotting the signs of child abuse, for example."

Peter Clarke, Wales's children's commissioner, recommended 18 months ago that the Welsh Assembly government take steps to ensure teachers receive specialist training into the way that abusers operate.

Mr Clarke's Clywch inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse in a south Wales secondary school also led him to call for in-house child-protection training for all local authority staff.

Ms Lewis said a lot of "behind-the-scenes" work was being done to ensure recommendations of the Clwych report were in place.

The Assembly government has made funding available for "designated teachers and all education staff" to receive multi-agency training in child protection procedures since 1995-96.

It now plans to place a statutory duty on schools and local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, with proposals due before Assembly members on January 31.

But Janet Ryder, Plaid Cymru's shadow education spokesperson, said: "We are still waiting for many of the recommendations of the Clwych report to be put in place, despite continued assurances that they would be by the beginning of this year. The Estyn findings are yet another indication that child-protection arrangements in schools are not as good as they should be."

Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, said in her response to Estyn's annual report: "During the coming months, we will be developing and consulting on guidance to support local education authorities and schools to implement this duty, which will replace their current pastoral duty of care."

She added: "Estyn's findings on child protection show it is an area that requires continued focus.

"Systems are in place to identify any shortcomings and to ensure that appropriate action is taken.

"Nonetheless, I shall be writing to all schools as well as local education authorities about the findings and the need to continually evaluate the child protection measures applied by all staff."

Concern over the safety of pupils follows revelations that two teachers who had committed sex offences were allowed back into the classroom in England.

Last week Ms Davidson told the Assembly that no teachers registered with the GTCW were on List 99, the Department for Education and Skills's list of people banned from working with children.

Estyn looked at child protection as part of its inspections of schools, colleges and other youth agencies. In her annual report, Ms Lewis said most secondary schools had good arrangements.

However, some members of staff did not have appropriate training to deal with bullying and abuse. Youth-support services were found to do their best to protect young people from harm.

Elsewhere, Estyn's ninth annual report showed improvements in the performance of Welsh schools and their teachers. In primary schools, 76 per cent of lessons were rated good or better, compared with 46 per cent five years ago.

In 32 secondaries last seen in 1998-9, the good work rose from 47 to 63 per cent in 2004-5.

Estyn's annual report 4

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