Teachers and their safeguarding responsibilities

16th April 2010 at 01:00
Children's Commissioner speaks out in the wake of classmates' sexual abuse of six-year-old girl

The children's Commissioner for Wales has said that teachers must take more responsibility for safeguarding and protecting vulnerable children.

Keith Towler's comments come after it emerged that a six-year-old girl was repeatedly sexually and physically abused by classmates at a school in Wales.

Mr Towler told TES Cymru that teachers need to be reminded throughout their career of their responsibility to protect children in their care and has called for better training.

"I am a firm believer that the safeguarding and protection of our children is everyone's responsibility, including those working within the education sector," he said.

"Teachers, from training stage and ongoing throughout their careers, should be made aware of their safeguarding responsibilities and be supported in that role."

Mr Towler also said that the Assembly government's guidance document, Safeguarding Children in Education, should be implemented in full.

It sets out the roles and responsibilities expected of local authorities, school governing bodies, headteachers and designated staff and includes a model child protection policy for schools.

Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of teaching union NASUWT, said teachers are already "acutely aware" of their responsibilities.

"No teacher would want to think that pupils in their charge are being bullied or abused by other pupils, but you can't expect teachers to be aware of things they can't see," he said.

Mr Phillips said teachers would welcome additional training to help them spot "hidden" signs of bullying, abuse and intimidation.

"The big question is how do you encourage pupils to come forward to report what's happening to them?" he said. "That's an area that needs to be looked at."

Heledd Hayes, NUT Cymru's education officer, said "serious lessons" need to be learned from the case, which has "shocked everyone in the profession".

"Initial teacher training and ongoing development should contain more of an emphasis on these sorts of practical issues," she said. "Teachers would also appreciate extra help to recognise signs of abuse and mistreatment which are not always obvious."

The case of the six-year-old girl made national headlines when it came to light earlier this month. The girl's mother said she was stripped and physically and sexually abused by her classmates on a daily basis.

Her school and the local education authority cannot be named. No action was taken against the children involved because they were below the age of criminal responsibility.

Original paper headline: Teachers urged to face up to safeguarding responsibilities

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