Teachers need help to spot signs of abuse
Last February's Waterhouse inquiry into abuse in North Wales children's homes emphasised the vital role schools play in the front line of child protection.
But research by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has identified gaps in training on child protection at teacher training, school and local education authority levels.
Senior research officer Mary Baginsky said: "It is clear that teachers are looking for additional support and training.
"At the present time, too much is left to chance, available budgets and the need to take account of the enormous demands which are made on teachers' time.
"It is vital that this ad hoc approach is ended."
Initial teacher training courses are required to cover teachers' legal liabilities and the responsibilities of the education service in protecting children from abuse. P> Researchers found that while most courses met the basic government requirement, the coverage of child protection was minimal, between one and three hours.
In a survey of schools, headteachers and teachers given child protection responsibilities said they would be able to recognise signs of abuse, but nearly 90 per cent were concerned that this would not be the case for all teachers.
While the vast majority of schools have been represented on LEA training programmes, one in eight LEAs reported that half its primary schools had not sent a member of staff on the training.
In one in five LEAs, half of the secondary schools had not been represented.
Next month, the NSPCC is to publish, with the support of BT, a guide for primaries on teaching children about safety.
NSPCC chief executive and former headteacher Mary Marsh said: "Schools are at the front line of child protection and teachers have to feel knowledgeable and confident about helping children to deal with complex, sensitive issues."