Tensions and misunderstandings can occur however professional staff are in their relationships with pupils. All staff are potentially vulnerable to allegations of abuse and need good training and clear guidance on how to deal with this.
It is now 12 months since the Allegation Management Adviser Network was established - replaced in April 1 this year by the Safeguarding Adviser Network - and published Guidance for Safer Working Practice for Adults who Work with Children and Young People. The guidance was produced to help staff establish the safest possible learning environments. Its aims were to safeguard young people and reduce the risk of staff being falsely accused of improper or unprofessional conduct.
The guidance contains detailed advice on a useful set of underpinning principles:
- The welfare of the child is paramount.
- Staff are responsible for their own actions and behaviour and should avoid any conduct that would lead any reasonable person to question their motivation and intentions.
- Staff should work, and be seen to work, in an open way.
- Staff should discuss andor take advice promptly from their line manager or another senior member of staff over any incident that may give rise to concern.
- Records should be made of any such incident and of decisions made or further actions agreed, in accordance with school policy for keeping and maintaining records.
- Staff should apply the same professional standards regardless of gender or sexuality.
- All staff should know the name of their designated person for child protection, be familiar with local child protection arrangements and understand their responsibilities to safeguard and protect children and young people.
- Staff should be aware that breaches of the law and other professional guidelines could result in criminal or disciplinary action being taken against them.
I have carried out a number of health and safety audits in schools over the past year, and while there has been a marked improvement in the application of the safer recruitment guidance, implementation of the safer working practice guidance has been patchy. It would be fitting for schools to review staff awareness of the guidance 12 months on.
Chris Lowe, Former headteacher, trade union consultant and chief editor at Quick Guide Publishing.