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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Protecting your child from abuse: your school's role

Everyone in the education service plays a part in keeping children and young people safe. Creating a safe learning environment, identifying pupils who are suffering or at risk of harm and then taking appropriate action are vital to ensuring children are safe at home and at school.

The role of the school in protecting your child from abuse

Your child's school should have a number of measures in place to help protect them, including:

  • staff who have been trained to be alert to signs of abuse
  • a senior member of staff with responsibility for child protection
  • procedures for checking on staff before they are allowed to work with children
  • a child protection policy which includes procedures to be followed if a teacher or other member of staff is accused of harming a child

You can find out more about child protection procedures in schools by following the link below to ‘Guidance for schools on protecting children from abuse’.

As well as having child protection procedures in place, schools can help children protect themselves. Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) lessons can cover such issues as:

  • risky behaviour
  • appropriate and inappropriate physical contact
  • dealing with peer pressure

Checks on staff working with children and young people

Your child's school must carry out certain checks on the background and criminal records of all staff who have contact with children.

New measures to tighten vetting of school staff

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 introduced a new vetting and barring scheme to strengthen the procedures for checking staff and volunteers who work with children or vulnerable adults frequently (for example once a month) or intensively (on three days in a 30 day period).

This includes people who carry out work on school premises which gives them the opportunity for frequent or intensive contact with children. This could include:

  • volunteers, for example those helping children with their reading once a month
  • cleaning, canteen and administrative staff
  • contractors working on the school premises

The vetting and barring scheme is scheduled to operate from October 2009. You can get more details and some background information on the scheme by following the link below.

Dealing with suspected cases of abuse

If you suspect that a child is being abused, you should report it to police or local social services. If you work in a school, you should tell the staff member responsible for child protection. They will take the appropriate action based on procedures set out by the local authority and local safeguarding children board - notifying the authorities where it is required.

Once the authorities are notified, they will decide the best way to proceed. The school's role from then on is limited. School staff will not take part in an investigation, though they may be called on to supply information. They may also be asked to provide additional support for the child or young person.

Preventing inappropriate relationships at school

Sexual relationships with under 16s are against the law, but it’s also an offence for an adult to have a sexual relationship with someone under 18 if the adult occupies a ‘position of trust’ in relation to that young person.

This covers, for example, relationships between members of school or college staff and students. It applies as long as the young person is under 18, even if they are over the age of legal consent – though there are some defences which can apply in limited circumstances.

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