Primary teachers and heads play an increasingly important, though unacknowledged, role in child protection. But some teachers feel ill-equipped to take on this responsibility and not sufficiently supported by outside agencies.
Teachers and heads who took part in a York University study felt there wasn't enough coverage of child protection issues in initial teacher training, particularly on PGCE courses. There was also concern among the 300 respondents to a questionnaire that support for this work could become increasingly marginalised with the growing demands of national curriculum subjects on primary teacher training courses.
Class teachers felt that while they had been given guidelines on "how to get information out of people", they needed to learn how to respond to disclosures and to be given the opportunity to explore their own attitudes towards abuse. They said the shortage of time at staff meetings and constraints on the staff development budget were stumbling blocks to developing the understanding and skills they needed to cope with the sometimes earth-shattering consequences of child protection cases.
Rosemary Webb and Graham Vulliamy, Department of Educational Studies, University of York, Heslington, York YO1 5DD.