In every organisation there are policies and procedures that the workforce must follow and within the Education services there is a set of procedures and policies regarding the protection and safeguarding of children and young people. The children’s safety and their healthy development are the paramount concerns in every school setting; therefore, teaching and non-teaching staff have to be aware of the risks involved in looking after children, and also have to be careful when establishing physical contact with the pupils so that they do not cross the line from caring to abuse. The Children Act 2004, through the Stay Safe outcome of the Every Child Matters Change for Children programme, places the duty on organisations to safeguard and promote the well-being of children and young people. This includes the need to ensure that all adults who work with or on behalf of children and young people in these organisations are competent, confident and safe to do so. In fact, all adults who work with children and young people have a crucial role to play in shaping their lives. For this reason, policies have been produced to help adults working in all educational settings to establish safe and responsive environments which safeguard young people and reduce the risk of adults being unjustly accused of improper or unprofessional conduct.
There are three main school’s policies: child protection and safeguarding (keeping children safe), maintaining children’s safety and security on premises (to minimise the risk of harm) and health and safety (maintaining children’s safety and security on premises).
Safeguarding children and child protection
Every educational setting should promote children’s right to be strong, resilient and listened to by creating an environment that encourages children to develop a positive self-image. Schools should encourage children to develop a sense of autonomy and independence. Early years practitioners should help children to establish and sustain satisfying relationships within their families, peers, and other adults. The rights and safety of children and young adults should be ensured at all times. Schools should be committed to building a ‘culture of safety’ in which children are protected from abuse and harm in all areas of their service. They also should be committed to responding promptly and appropriately to all incidents or suspicions of abuse that may occur. Procedures included in this policy should guarantee that every member of staff works with statutory agencies in accordance with the procedures that are set down in What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused 2015. If a member of the school’s staff thinks that a child is being abused or neglected or in any harm, it is his/her duty to protect the child. Where such evidence is apparent, the child’s key person, teacher or teaching assistant should make a dated record of the details of the concern and should discuss what to do with the member of staff who is acting as the “designated person”. The information shared should be stored on the child’s personal file. In some cases, the concerns need to be referred to the local authority children’s social care department. Educational settings should also be committed to promoting awareness of child abuse issues through training and learning programmes for adults. Schools should offer training opportunities in accordance with that recommended by the Local Safeguarding Children Board, for all professionals involved in the settings to ensure that they are able to recognise the signs and signals of possible physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect and that they are aware of the local authority guidelines for making referrals.
Maintaining children’s safety and security on premises
This policy is put into place because there are risks involved in looking after children and young adults. Every school setting should maintain the highest possible security of the premises to ensure that each child is safely cared for during their time at school. The procedures in place need to ensure all employed staff have been checked for criminal records by an enhanced disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau, adults shouldn’t supervise children on their own and risk assessments should carried out to ensure children are not made vulnerable within any activity or any part of the setting premises. The premises’ security must be maintained. The times of children’s arrivals and departures need to be recorded together with the arrival and departure times of adults. Staff and parents’ helpers should be recorded in the register and visitors should be required to sign a visitors’ book. School’s systems need to prevent unauthorised access to premises.
The health and safety of children is of paramount importance. According to the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, every educational setting should be safe and healthy for children, parents, staff and volunteers. By assessing and minimising the hazards and risks, the members of school’s staff will enable the children to thrive in a healthy and safe environment. The basis of this policy is the risk assessment. The risk assessment processes follow five steps as follows:
• Identification of risk: where is it and what is it?
• Who is at risk: staff, children or parents?
• Understand the level of risk as high, medium, low. This is both the risk of the likelihood of it happening, as well as the possible impact if it did.
• Control measures to reduce and/or eliminate the risk: what will be needed to do in order to reduce that risk?
• Monitoring and review, understanding if what the school is doing is working or if it needs to be amended, or completely changed.
The risk assessment process covers adults and children and includes:
? determining where it is helpful to make some written risk assessments in relation to specific issues,
? inform staff practice,
? demonstrate how the members of staff are managing risks if asked by parents and/or carers and inspectors;
? checking for and noting hazards and risks indoors and outside;
? assessing the level of risk and who might be affected;
? deciding which areas need more attention;
? developing an action plan that specifies the action required, the time-scales for action, the people responsible for the action.
Fire safety and emergency evacuation
Every school premises must present no risk of fire by ensuring the highest possible standard of fire precautions. The person in charge and staff should be familiar with the current legal requirements. The basis of fire safety is the risk assessment. This should be carried out by a competent person. In the educational settings fire exits need to be clearly marked and never obstructed; smoke detectors/alarms and firefighting appliances must to be conform national standards and fitted in appropriate high-risk areas of the building. The emergency evacuation procedures should be approved by the Fire Safety Officer and have to be clearly displayed in the premises.
Health and welfare policies, Food hygiene and Administering medicines
Every school needs to make sure the setting is a safe and healthy place for children, parents, staff and volunteers. Within the policies related to health requirements, every school should have in place a Food hygiene (Including procedure for reporting food poisoning) policy. In fact, educational settings provide and serve food (snacks and lunch time) for children, and for this reason, they should always maintain the highest possible food hygiene standards with regard to the purchase, storage, preparation and serving of food. Food preparation areas must be cleaned before use as well as after use together with all utensils, crockery etc. Children shouldn’t have unsupervised access to the kitchen. Food poisoning can unfortunately occur for various reasons and should be always reported. When children and/or adults have been diagnosed by a GP or hospital doctor to be suffering from food poisoning and it seems possible that the source of the outbreak is within the school setting, the manager should contact the Environmental Health Department and the Health Protection Agency, to report the outbreak and eventually the setting will be notified to Ofsted within 14 days. Another important policy is the Administering medicines policy: professionals at school should be able to administer medications as part of maintaining children’s health and well-being. In many cases, it is possible for children’s GPs/doctors to prescribe medicine that can be taken at home in the morning and evening. Administering medicines should only be done in line with current guidance in Managing Medicines in Schools and Early Years Settings and the school’s manager is responsible for ensuring all staff understand and follow the procedures. These includes ensuring that parents’ consent forms have been completed, that medicines are stored correctly and that records are kept according to procedures. Children’s prescribed medicines should be stored in their original containers, clearly labelled and inaccessible to the children. A Medication book should be completed with all the information regarding the child’s medicine and dosage, and a signature must be required from the child’s parent or guardian.
Policies and procedures are set in place to not only protect children and young people, but also adults who work with them. It is vital that all professionals follow safe working practices to ensure that not only children are protected but also themselves. For example, if a disclosure is made by a child to a member of staff it is vital that is always taken seriously even if it is proven to be untrue or inaccurate. Some children need physical contact of some form, such as when they are upset for a specific reason. Teaching and non-teaching professionals need to understand how and when it is appropriate to give the contact. This is usually given when the child is upset, so they can encourage the child to start a play activity. This is a strategy that can be used to regulate children’s emotions and facilitate a distraction from what is distressing them. Whatever happened or may have happened, the child or young person should be listened to in a calm and supportive manner which will allow them to talk freely and openly and it is imperative that they are reassured. Schools need to ensure that all parents know how to complain about the behaviour or actions of staff or volunteers within the provision, or anyone working on the premises occupied by the setting, which may include an allegation of abuse.
Educational settings should always respond to any inappropriate behaviour displayed by members of staff, or any other person working with the children, which include inappropriate sexual comments, excessive one-to-one attention beyond the requirements of their role and inappropriate sharing of images. School must follow the guidance of the Local Safeguarding Children Board when responding to any complaint that a member of staff, or volunteer within the premises. The complaints should be referred immediately to the local authority’s social care department to investigate.
Teachers and teaching assistants can protect themselves against accusations of abuse by working transparently. If everybody in the staff knows what they are doing and why, no-one can fall victim of false charges.