14th September 2001 at 01:00
Could you clarify the roles of a teacher and a social worker, when the former suspects that a pupil is the subject of abuse?

The investigation of allegations of child abuse and any necessary action are the province of the Child Protection Agency, through which social services departments and the police work together.

Teachers have a special position because of the relationship of trust which they often enjoy with pupils. They are able to spot signs that abuse may be taking place and they may also receive information directly from pupils.

It is not, however, their role to investigate cases on the basis of what they have seen or heard. They have only to decide whether the evidence or information is sufficient to lead them to believe that an investigation would be appropriate. If the answer is that it would be, the CPA should be informed.

After that, it is up to the agency to decide what to do, although a school would naturally wish to co-operate in any way necessary. In particular, the CPA needs to judge whether it is appropriate or necessary to inform parents.

A teacher who is unsure of whether something should be reported or not should always seek the advice of the head, or another senior colleague.

Finally, it is important to keep a note of incidents and actions taken and to record any reference to the CPA.


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