Archive | Child Protection RSS feed for this section

Government plans to tighten safeguarding arrangements for children in care

13 Apr

I         Consultation on new regulations

On 12 February 2020, the government launched an eight-week consultation period to strengthen the regulations related to children in care to ensure that they are placed in suitable accommodation. Placing these children under the age of 16 in unregulated accommodation will become illegal. Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, announced these measures to drive up the quality of children’s social care.  Also, minimum standards will be introduced for unregulated accommodation, which provides accommodation but not care for young people aged 16 and over.

As part of the consultation, the Government introduced national standards for unregulated accommodation to improve the quality and security of the placements. This will mean that where this is used appropriately for young people aged 16 and over, safety and quality are prioritised.

Ofsted, the inspectorate, will be given powers to crack down on illegal, unregistered providers – those providing care for children without being registered to do so. Councils and local police forces will be required to work together before placements in unregulated settings are made.  The interests of young people will be at the heart of decisions and of paramount importance.

The Education Secretary confirmed that an independent review would look widely across children’s social care with the aim of better supporting, protecting and improving the outcomes of these children and young people making sure that it reflected the experiences of those who needed social workers or been in care.

Continue reading

Measures to protect children at risk of abuse to be strengthened

13 Apr

How good a society is can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.  In schools and academies, the vulnerable categories are children

  • who are disabled;
  • from broken homes; and
  • who have been physically, emotionally and sexually abused, neglected or are at risk of being abused in one of these four ways.

Each school/academy is required to have a designated safeguarding lead to ensure that children at risk of being abused “achieve and attend”.

I       The Consultation

Consultation (Keeping Children Safe in Education – KCSIE) on the proposed changes to safeguarding so the leads have a “greater focus” on improving the academic achievement of children on the edge of care was launched on 25 February 2020. The deadline to responses was set at 21 April 2020.

The Department for Education said the plans would specifically help children that experience challenges outside of their schools and academies. The proposals include sharing information about how children’s circumstances impact on their education and suggestions about how to support staff to find “effective ways of teaching … and maintaining a culture of high aspiration”.

Continue reading

Promoting children’s welfare: foci on obesity and knives

17 Aug

Schools and academies are responsible for promoting children’s welfare and protecting them from harm.  They do so very well – indeed so much so that Children’s Social Services are relieved when they (the schools/academies) shut down for the summer recess. It is then that the pressure of constant referrals that schools/academies make to Social Workers of children being physically, sexually and emotionally abused or neglected reduces significantly.

Two other areas to which governors, headteachers and staff members should give some attention are children’s love of fast foods, especially their penchant for fast foods – a key cause of obesity – and the increasing incidence of knife crime.

Continue reading

Safeguarding Children: new DfE advice issued

20 Apr

Keeping Children Safe in Education, statutory guidance from the Department for Education, was issued 5 September 2016.   On 14 December 2017, the government began consultation on

  • revisions to the guidance and the legal duties with which they must comply to keep children safe and
  • new advice on sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges

The consultations, which sought views on a new non-statutory 41-page document that gives schools long-awaited advice on how to deal with peer-on-peer abuse, including sexual assaults and sexual harassment committed by children on other children, closed on 22 February 2018.

Changes in the new version of the document, which takes effect in September 2018, were prompted by a number of factors, such as worries about peer-on-peer abuse, “a coroner’s concerns following the death of a child” and requests from schools for more clarity about exchange visits.

In 2017, The Times Educational Supplement reported that some schools had put pupils who were raped back into the classroom with their alleged attackers.

Deighton Pierce Glynn, Solicitors, wrote to ex-Education Secretary Justine Greening in September 2017, accusing her of being in breach of her duties under the Equality Act 2010 to eliminate discrimination against girls in school.

In November 2017, financially supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), they threatened judicial review proceedings if the DfE did not act quickly to protect students from peer-on-peer abuse.

Continue reading

Green Paper on mental health provision in schools and academies

31 Dec

I        Proposals

On 4 December 2017, the government published a Green Paper and an open consultation around “transforming children and young people’s mental health provision”.[1] Jointly issued by the Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening and Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, the Green Paper sets out plans which could have implications for how schools deal with mental ill-health amongst children and young people. The Paper proposes that every school/academy appoint an individual as a “designated lead in mental health”, with a national training programme fully in place by 2025. This individual will take the lead to help young people with mental health issues, provide support and advice to them and staff, and teach students about the warning signs associated with poor mental health.

The mental health lead will also have the power to make referrals to “specialist services” for the victims of mental ill-health.

The proposals recommend that each school mental health lead be linked to wider support teams, forming a bridge between the school/academy/college and the NHS which will mean that every school/academic and college will find it much easier to contact and work with mental health services.

As part of the initiative, the government wants to carry out further research around

  • the impact of the internet, particularly social media, on mental health;
  • how families can provide support to those suffering with mental health issues; and
  • how mental health problems can be avoided in the future.

Further work will also be carried out to see how mental health for 16-25 year olds can be improved.

In the Executive Summary, the government trumpeted what it had already achieved.  It mentioned the following.

“We have:

(i)         legislated for parity of esteem between physical and mental health;

(ii)        promised to ensure that an additional 70,000 children and young people per year will obtain support from mental health services by 2020/21;

(iii)       improved services for eating disorders, with an additional £30 million of investment, established 70 new or enhanced Community Eating Disorder Teams, and set the first-ever waiting times for eating disorders and psychosis;

(iv)       funded eight areas to test different crisis approaches for children and young people’s mental health and tested New Care Models for Mental Health; and

(v)        published cross-agency Local Transformation Plans for children and young people’s mental health for every area of the country.”

In the second chapter of the Green Paper added: “We have made our commitment clear through significant investment in services for children and young people, including:

  1. legislating for parity of esteem between physical and mental health in 2012;
  2. investing record levels in mental health services, totalling £11.6 billion in 2016/17;
  3. making an additional £1.4 billion available for children’s and young people’s mental health between 2015/16 – 2019/20 to enable an additional 70,000 children per year to be seen by children’s and young people’s mental health services by 2020/21; and
  4. committing to recruit 1,700 more therapists and supervisors, and train 3,400 existing staff to deliver evidence based treatments.”

Continue reading

On-line Safeguarding

31 Dec

I        Preamble

Safeguarding arrangements in every school/academy have to be strong, robust and stand up to scrutiny.  Ofsted inspectors put considerable store on them when they visit.  Should the arrangements fail to pass muster, the school/academy is placed in special measures.

Safeguarding covers a raft of issues – child protection against physical, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect – taking prime importance.  Altogether, safeguarding pupils in a school/academy is profoundly important.

The Metropolitan Police (MP), like all the other 42 police forces in the country, is struggling to come to grips with the growing menace of the sexual harassment of children online.  Jon Severs, commissioning editor of The Times Educational Supplement, was given access to two of the MP’s teams – the Predatory Offenders Unit and the Sexual Exploitation Team – to show how serious the problem was.   His accounts were published in the TES on 13 October 2017.

The victims of online abuse are getting younger. Some are only eight years old.   However, sexual abuse is not new.  It has been around for centuries.   Most abuse takes place within families.   What has happened is that it has grown exponentially through the world-wide web, applications and social media.

Adults in families would not have had experience of this when they were children.  They are more familiar with “stranger danger” – protecting their children in the way they were protected two or three decades earlier with their parents telling them to take care when they were outside in parks and on the roads.

Today, children are vulnerable in schools/academies from fellow peers.  The government has just published guidance on how they how best to deal with peer-on-peer sexual harassment and violence.

Children are also vulnerable in their bedrooms, where they should be safe.  When youngsters go online, they open their doors to the world of predators.  Some of the latter are young people too – under the age of 18.   These youngsters are oblivious to the dangers and have little information and understanding of them.

The police state that the problem is not technology but human behaviour.   Technology, like water or fire, is a bad master but can be a good servant.

A school’s job is not to combat and take on the evils of society, but outside children’s homes, teachers have the biggest impact on young people.   In my experience, parents are their children’s prime influencers till children reach the age of seven.  From seven to 13, teachers exert stronger influence in their lives.  From 13 to 18, it is fellow pupils and both, teachers and parents, are often perceived by the young people as “inferior”.

Media reports are peppered with stories of girls being sexually abused.  However, boys are also victims.  The misuse of technology has created an abhorrent trend and technology is here to stay. We cannot put it back into Pandora’s box.  Accordingly, we must educate our children to use it well – not to abuse it or be victims of those who do so.  The next section focuses on one such boy, Breck, who had his short life terminated by another youth who sexually exploited him.  His full story is recounted in the Times Education Supplement but reports on his sad saga are on the BBC and The Guardian websites

Continue reading

Keeping children safe: basis for happiness and success

18 Aug

Creating the right environment for learning facilitates learning.   If children are to succeed at school, they must have excellent teachers.  But that is not enough.   They must want to learn.  Establishing the right conditions for this desire means that they should be happy.   Keeping them safe is one of the prerequisites of happiness.

Consequently, the Department for Education (DfE) has taken pains to develop advice in Keeping Children Safe in Education, which is 76 pages long.   Ofsted, too, places enormous store on the arrangements the school/academy makes to safeguard young learners.   Should a school/academy fail to safeguard them sufficiently well, it is immediately put into special measures.

All adults working and volunteering at a school/academy – including governors and trustees – must now have Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.  However, two groups of people associated with children are exempt from these checks.  These are children’s parents and carers and their peers studying at their schools/academies or neighbouring schools/academies.

Continue reading

The Prevent Strategy: Nagging Dilemmas

18 Apr

Schools have been bombarded with advice on how to deal with preventing the growth of terrorism as part of their Safeguarding duties. This advice has come on the heels of the publication of the Prevent Strategy in 2011.  

However, the strategy has been subject to criticism from several quarters, not least from moderate Muslim leaders.

Dal Babu, chief superintendent of the Metropolitan Police before his retirement in 2013, is on record as stating that many Muslims see the scheme as spying and many involved in promoting it do not understand the communities the strategy is meant to serve.  Having acknowledged that it started off as “a good idea”, Dal Babu remarked that it had become less and less trusted.

Some have criticised Prevent as being counter-productive and promoting unfair discrimination against the rank-and-file of Muslims – and others observed that there was no clear way of measuring how effective it was.

Continue reading

Unpacking the dilemmas of promoting British Values

1 Jan

Are we losing our way in promoting British values?  Take two recent test cases.

I        A tale of two incidents

(a)        In early November 2016, British Gymnastics suspended Louis Smith, the UK Olympian, after he appeared in an online video in October 2016 with his friend and former gymnast, Luke Carson.  The video shows him pretending to pray to Allah while laughing.   British Gymnastics issued a statement: “Louis Smith admitted his behaviour was in breach of the Standards of Conduct.  The panel upheld the allegation and, taking into account a previous breach of the Standards of Conduct heard in June this year (where it also was made clear to Louis the consequences of any further breach), the panel determine a cumulative penalty was appropriate and order a two-month period of suspension……”

Twenty-seven-year-old Smith accepted offers to learn more about the Muslim faith after admitting he had been “ignorant to people’s religion”.

(b)        Later in November 2016, a row broke out over free speech following a government ban on 32-year-old Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing journalist, after an invitation extended to him by sixth former pupils at his former secondary school, i.e. Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury, Kent.  Yiannopoulos is the editor of the far-right news website, Breitbart.   The Department for Education’s Counter Extremism Unit cancelled the arrangement over safety concerns and the “threat of demonstrations at the school”.

Yiannopoulos, labelled by Claire Fox, Director of the Institute of Ideas, a “notorious troll and Donald Trump supporter”, is a colourful character, to say the least, who has described feminism as a cancer, called Islam the real culprit of race culture and said women who are offended online should just “log off”.

However, the decision to cancel the journalist’s talk caused a major row over free speech.  More than 200 – 220 to be precise – sixth form students had signed up for the event – with parental permission.

Yiannopoulos wrote: “My old high school has been bullied into cancelling my talk …. by the ‘counter-extremism’ unit at the UK Department of Education.  Who even knew the DoE (sic) had a counter-extremism unit?  And that it wasn’t set up to combat terrorism but rather to punish gays with the wrong opinions.  Perhaps if I’d called the speech ‘Muslims are awesome’ they’d have left us alone. Disgusted.”

A Simon Langton student encapsulated the feelings and thoughts of many of his peers when he said, despite disagreeing with Yiannopoulos’s opinions, he felt the decision to ban his talk was “wrong”. He observed: “I feel the old adage applies: ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’”

The school, which expelled Yiannopoulos when he was a student, stated that objections to his talk had come almost “entirely from people with no direct connection to Langton”.

“The staff and students of the school were overwhelmingly in favour,” said Dr Matthew Baxter, the Headteacher.  “While disappointed that both, the pastoral care and intellectual preparation we offer to our students, have been called into question, we, at Langton, remain committed to the principle of free speech and open debate, and will resist, where possible, all forms of censorship.”

Continue reading

Call to raise the profile of and provision for mental health in schools and academies

1 Jan

For the well-being of a nation to be promoted, children’s mental health must be safeguarded.  They are our future.   We commit a heinous crime by neglecting children’s welfare and happiness.   However, children’s mental health is taking a backseat in the provision we make for them within our schools/academies and the wider society.  The focus, at times, is exclusively on a narrow curriculum dominated by English and Mathematics and, when in their teens, the English Baccalaureate.

In the 61st issue of Governors’ Agenda, (see here) we focused on the promotion of children’s mental health.  It is now time to revisit this important matter, especially as there have been developments.

Emily Frith of the Education Policy Institute published in November 2016 Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Time to Deliver.  The report calls for a “high profile, national government programme to ensure a stronger focus on mental health and wellbeing within schools”. The recommendations in the report – set out in three sections – are as follows.

Continue reading