Most new teachers enter the classroom with little or no understanding of child-protection issues.
The majority of teacher-training courses devote between one and four hours to the topic, but about one in six (17 per cent) sets aside no more than an hour, according to an NSPCC survey published in the new report.
Ten of the 128 higher-education courses surveyed did not cover child protection at all.
The survey was carried out before the introduction of the national curriculum for initial teacher training. This requires those seeking qualified teacher status to demonstrate an understading of teachers' legal responsibilities, including those relating to child protection.
But more than half the training providers surveyed thought the new provisions would make no difference. Most wanted to give more attention to child protection, but said there was not enough time within the crowded and prescriptive curriculum.
Follow-up interviews with course leaders revealed that some were uncertain about which aspects of child protection they should be covering. Others had a casual approach, which came out in comments such as: "We thought of it late and just stuck it in."