Safeguarding for Early Career Teachers

Sara Spinks 24 April 2023 6 min read
Safeguarding for Early Career Teachers feature image

Safeguarding & Child Protection- Top Tips for Early Career Teachers (ECTs)

All organisations and individuals that works with children have a responsibility to look out for their welfare and best interests. An important part of this role is to understand the policies and procedures that are in place to protect children. In this article Sara Rawnsley gives her top tips for ECTs.

Safeguarding and Child Protection are two terms that are often used interchangeably but don't refer to the same thing. Let's explore the difference between the two terms:

1. What is Safeguarding?

Safeguarding is a critical part of what we do as teachers. However, it is the responsibility of every member of staff in school to report safeguarding concerns (teacher or not).

Safeguarding is the process of looking after the most vulnerable people in our society, to protect them from harm, abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Children under the age of 18 are particularly vulnerable. Safeguarding children helps to ensure their welfare and prevent harm to either their health or development, allowing them to grow up in an environment that will give them a good start in life.

So, what does safeguarding set out to achieve?

Safeguarding processes are designed to achieve the following:

  • Protect children from abuse and maltreatment;
  • Prevent harm to children's health or development;
  • Ensure children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care.
  • Enable all children and young people to have the best chance in life.

These are detailed in the Department for Education statutory guidance KCSIE 2022.

Some of the policies and procedures that may be employed to successfully safeguard children include:

  • Training all employees in safeguarding children;
  • Creating a safe environment for children;
  • Teaching children about safety;
  • Strictly vetting individuals before employing them to ensure they don't pose any risk to children - Safer Recruitment practices;
  • Identifying vulnerable and at-risk children;
  • Training employees in how to safely and professionally report any concerns they have.

As you can see from this list, preventing or halting abuse is not the only consideration in effective safeguarding. Educators should also strive to create positive cultures that allow pupils to happily see out their full potentials. However, this should not distract from the real and pressing need to understand and identify abuse in children.

2. What is child protection?

Child protection refers to the system and laws that are in place to keep vulnerable children safe from harm. The child protection systems in place are slightly different depending on whether you are e.g. England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

What does child protection achieve?

Child protection refers to the procedure that takes place once a child or young person has been identified as being at risk. This could because they have experienced some form of harm, abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

This is done by:

  • Identifying vulnerable children;
  • Investigating and assessing child welfare concerns;
  • Putting child protection measures in place.

So basically:

Safeguarding =
preventive and protective policies, procedures and processes to minimise and avoid harm
Child protection =
reactive processes and procedures following identification of child at risk of harm

Safeguarding is an aspect of the job that can frighten new teachers in particular, as we worry about it from a number of angles. Here are some examples of concerns about safeguarding that new teachers have raised over the years:

  • What If I miss something about a child in my tutor group?
  • Do I report everything that makes me stop and think 'Oh that's not right!'?
  • Can I get into trouble for reporting something that turns out not to have been a big deal after all?

With these, and more, concerns in mind, here are some top tips to help you understand, and be more confident with, your safeguarding responsibilities.

Know your responsibility:
Read and know
your school's Safeguarding policy. This is the first document in your staff handbook you must read and even attack with a highlighter!
Know what to look for
so you can recognise the signs of abuse.
Know the processes
in your school you should follow if you have a concern to raise such as how to record a disclosure, how to report it and to whom.
Clarify the policy
with your line manager or mentor so that you are completely confident that you understand your role and responsibility towards safeguarding. Read the latest KCSIE Parts 1, 4 and 5 and know it!

Designated Safeguarding Lead

Know who your DSL (Designated Safeguarding Lead) is and any Deputy Safeguarding leads (DDSL) and keep their names/photos/email addresses in your planner or on your own notice board so that it is quickly to hand, should you have a worry/concern you wish to report or seek advice on. If in doubt at all - ask.

Raise all concerns - no matter how small you think they are

There is no 'small' safeguarding concern; nothing is 'too small to share'. Think of safeguarding like this: Each student is a jigsaw puzzle and each teacher only sees some of the pieces. The more pieces you see, the more of that child's picture you begin to understand. That little concern you have, the conversation you heard that gave you reason to pause, might just be the piece of the jigsaw that your DSL needs to understand an individual child's bigger picture and take some action to better support and safeguard them. REPORT ANY CONCERN and allow your DSL to judge its level of importance, but believe me, everything you know about a child is important to some degree in understanding and supporting them.

Follow up

So, “Once I've passed it on, is that my responsibility over?” Legally the answer might be yes but many teachers stay awake at night worrying about concerns they've raised because they do not know what has happened as a result of them passing the information along. My advice is always to follow up any reported concerns a few days later with your DSL. They may be unable to tell you exact actions that have been taken but they will be able to set your mind at ease that your information has proved useful and that steps have been taken to support that student.

Safeguarding is a statutory requirement - if you're unsure about your school's policy, find it and read it today!

Want to know more? Click for more information on our Child Protection training.

Sara Spinks

SSS Author & Former Headteacher