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Safeguarding - Tips on Protecting Children and Yourself

20/11/17

Ray rises the importance of Safeguarding in his new blog.

Schools are very strict about teachers having Child Safeguarding training. The training is usually specific about what the teacher should and should not do and who to contact, should a situation arise which needs investigating.

Here are a few tips, suggestions and examples of ways that I have protected myself with over the years.

Teacher Union

On my first day as a trainee teacher I was advised by my mentor to join a union. He explained that as a Union member I would have greater protection and access to their legal team. Although after 8 years of teaching I have never needed to use their services. I would say that this was the single most important piece of advice for my own safeguarding that I have been given. Especially, as I was unaware that I could join a Teacher Union before qualifying as a teacher. The rates are much lower for Newly Qualified  and Trainee Teachers.

Basic Induction

Basic Induction is essential. It is vital to know where Fire exits and Fire meeting points are as well as to know the schools policies and procedures. You should also be aware of who are the Child Protection officers, who to contact in case of emergency and where to find the school map. Do not settle for anything less.

Witnesses

I have always tried to make sure that there is at least a minimum of two people around me at any given time when teaching. This may seem odd to you but I was given this advice early on by several different members of SLT who explained that you never know when you might require a witness. Even when talking to a student alone outside the classroom, it was suggested that I leave the door so that I am in the view of the class (and equally, the class is in my view too).

There was a serious incident in my classroom and the victims did not want to provide details of what happened but as there were so many witnesses, the collective testimonials were vital.

At Pupil Referral Units safeguarding procedures are heightened and more frequently applied. There are metal detectors on entry, cameras in every room and a minimum of two staff at all times. These rules are for the safety of staff and students. Many students have experienced mental or physical trauma in the past, therefore a close monitoring of all parties is essential.

If you feel that there is not a sufficient protection in your school, you should contact your agency. Professional recruitment agencies with integrity, such as Protocol, take these matters very seriously.

Searches

For instance, if a teacher suspects seeing an item, such as a weapon or a drug being secreted away, then a member of SLT can conduct a personal search.

Medical

Although I have been First Aid trained, it has to be remembered that the First Aid certificate expires after 3 years. Moreover, you should not apply your training unless you are a designated First Aider at the school you teach in.

Fights

The guidance to teachers can be very contradictory. For example, if a fight breaks out, teachers are advised to protect the physical well being of children as well as their own. The difficulty is that although we can use a physically intervention to prevent further injuries, as stated ‘staff may use a force that is reasonable in the circumstances for preventing a pupil from committing an offense, causing an injury to a person or themselves'. The quandary occurs when a teacher has to balance this against their own safety, but as Jade Kent, a solicitor, confirms ‘The law provides a power, not a duty, to use force which gives you some discretion.' However, ‘school staff do have a duty of care towards their pupils to protect them from harm and it could be argued that failing to take action may, in some circumstances, breach that duty.’

I have never refrained from splitting up fighting parties and have on occasions restrained students from attacking female teachers (one being pregnant). I have even disarmed students a couple of times.
My advice would be to only intervene if you are confident in your own abilities and if you are sure that your action would prevent further harm to others or yourself. Seek support if you are not sure.

We have a duty of care for our students but we often forget that we also have a duty of care for ourselves.

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