Safeguarding during the pandemic and beyond – the transcript
25th June 2020
Safeguarding during the pandemic and beyond
Last month, we hosted a virtual roundtable with child safety experts including Chief Constable Simon Bailey, Claude Knights, Ceri Stokes, Charlotte Aynsley and our CEO Justin Reilly, discussing safeguarding issues during the current climate, their advice for schools now and as schools start to re-open, as some of them have already began to do.
The topics raised include child sexual abuse; online threats and scams; exposure to domestic violence; chaotic lifestyle; drug abuse; alcohol abuse; peer-to-peer bullying; sibling rivalry and the overall impact they might be having on the development of young people.
Below, you can read the entire transcript, or if you’re interested in watching the full video, click here.
The full transcript
Hello and welcome to this one hour webinar where we are talking about safeguarding during the pandemic and beyond. And it’s brought to you in association with the safeguarding software specialists Impero Software. I am Sarah Lockett, and I’m going to be hosting this one hour session. We have got with us:
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who is the National Police Chief’s council lead for Child Protection and also Chief Constable of Norfolk police.
We also have Claude knights, who is an independent consultant on family and child protection issues.
Ceri Stokes is with us assistance. Head and designated safeguarding lead at Kimbolton school in Cambridgeshire.
Charlotte Aynsley, former head of safeguarding at BECTA, which was the lead government agency for the promotion and integration and rollout of it in education. And she’s now an online safety consultant and safeguarding advisor at Impero.
Justin Riley, who is CEO of Impero, which is the safeguarding specialists.
What we’re talking about today is schools across the UK have been mostly closed since the end of March to most pupils, they are open of course for at risk children and also the children of key workers. So, at the beginning of this term, it was reported, that only some one in 20 eligible children turned up and so almost half a million vulnerable children were not attending. Also, Child Protection referrals have fallen by 50%, during this period in some areas of the UK during lockdown, and so in Fine teachers have a huge role to play ordinarily in safeguarding.
New research commissioned by Impero since the lockdown shows that almost 90% of teachers consider safeguarding a large part of their job and they’re worried that school closures are negatively affecting the safeguarding of children. Nearly three quarters of teachers have contacted at risk pupils during the lockdown to tell them where they can go if they need safeguarding help. And more than two thirds have or they intend to flank concerns about at risk pupils to local authority social care teams. The researchers spoke to 300 teachers around the UK and nearly half of those are logging safeguarding concerns manually. So that means either via email or via an Excel system or paper records.
We’re going to talk first of all about lockdown, safeguarding concerns and lessons learned for next time and I’m going to start and dive straight into our questions. And I’m going to pick on Chief Constable Simon Bailey, first of all, actually to ask you base basic question first, what are we talking about? When we’re talking about safeguarding how big a problem is it? What kind of issues are we talking about Simon?
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: I think we have to recognise that we’re talking about a significant number of issues, perhaps not just what we would describe as the traditional types of concerns. We would all recognise that there is a growing body of evidence around adverse childhood experiences, and the impact that that can then have upon later life, your development, both physically and mentally, the implications it has for career opportunities, your own physical and mental wellbeing and so on. I’m concerned about the potential implications of exposure to adverse childhood experiences. I’m obviously concerned around familial abuse within the family environment. Traditional child sexual abuse still accounts for 60% of all child sexual abuse that is reported to us. There is then of course the growing online threat. And we know that there are a group, of men overwhelmingly, out there that have a predetermined sexual interest in children and will go online to groom children. So, we know children are spending more and more time online with all the risks that are associated with that. And then of course, the Internet Watch Foundation has published figures that a third of all new indecent images of children are self-generated within lockdown. I cannot help but think that children will also be sharing sexualized images themselves in a lot of cases, as a consensual sharing of an image. But there isn’t an understanding and appreciation that once that image has gone from your phone, it is then in the possession of someone else, and you then lose control of it.
Sarah Lockett: And are there any sort of figures or in terms of numbers of people that we’re talking about numbers of children? Is there anything? Would you have any of that kind of information?
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: No but the National Crime agency have recently revised the figure of people that have had a sexual interest in children from between 66,000 and 80,000 to 300,000. So we know that the internet and technology has opened up a new world and a whole new series of opportunities for people that have a sexual interest in children to what they believe is ‘safely’ fulfil their sexual fantasies, because of the anonymization of the web and the facilities that are afforded to them. So, my concerns are multifaceted. It goes just beyond the fact that the child, when they are in school, is then in the vast majority of time in a safe environment. It goes beyond just child sexual abuse. It is the online threat is the exposure to domestic abuse, and chaotic lifestyles, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and the overall impact it might be having on the development of young people. So what we have to be able to start thinking about is now how do we ensure that our concerns are raised and acknowledged, and how do we start preparing for what I believe will be the inevitable surge of reports that will come to the safeguarding experts, the practitioners in the field, once there is an easing of lockdown.
Sarah Lockett: That’s it isn’t it? If I can come to Charlotte immediately. So it’s not just children just sort of traditional abusers. You were saying, Simon, it’s all sorts of things, isn’t it? It’s, it’s, it’s bullying, it’s grooming. What would you say it encompasses that we’re worried about?
Charlotte Aynsley: I think as Simon mentioned, there are more well-understood issues like CSA type material type, child sexual abuse material and peer to peer bullying. But there are also big issues around the circulation of fake news, for example, especially to do with the virus and you will know that Facebook and other social media sites have taken quite extreme steps to stem the flow of fake information circulating around to help people make sense of the sorts of things that are online. And we’ve heard awful situations like online meetings being interrupted with images of child sexual abuse material and the trauma suffered by people if they see this sort of material and people not knowing really how to respond to those kinds of situations, especially for children and young people, and for adults as well. It’s just dreadful that people have to see that material and it’s really traumatising. The other thing that I’ve certainly been hearing about is people trying to sell young children FIFA points and via Instagram, and then asking them for their passwords. And they’re giving their passwords because obviously there’s a lot of competition happening in terms of those gaming environments at the moment and all children want to do really well because they’re all competing with each other because they’re spending more time online. And you know that they are more susceptible to scams and people accessing their account and taking the credits from their accounts. So, it’s not just some of the more typical incidents of online situations and harm that is happening. It’s diversifying into other areas because lots more children are spending more time online.
Sarah Lockett: Claude, what would you say about that, that you’re kind of most worried about, what do you think is going to be the biggest problem that’s being exacerbated during lockdown?
Claude Knights: Particularly from my background in bullying, I am very worried about cyberbullying. Parents don’t always understand what’s going on. They might think he or she is on the computer and are doing schoolwork, but actually, you know, other things are happening. Also even just in terms of the games that they’re playing with friends, we know that even on Minecraft, so many children and young people are on the chat rooms and they let strangers in. I’m also worried about the fact that in some families, the technology won’t actually be sufficiently available for every child. So you’ve got sibling rivalry as well. It’s not an even playing field. It’s like a wild west really, because unfortunately, I’ve spoken to many parents even in this last few months, who were under a sense of false illusion that just because a child seems to be occupied in the bedroom everything’s well. But they could be in almost as much danger as they would be on a street corner at night.
Sarah Lockett: We don’t really know what they’re up to at all. Do we think they’re working quietly at home? What so what Ceri coming to you from Kimbolton school, how do you think lockdown has affected schools outlook on safeguarding? Do you think it’s been hard to continue safeguarding in the normal way?
Ceri Stokes: Definitely, because a lot of our role as a teacher is to talk and try and find out what’s going on with the child, and that’s when we get disclosures. And that’s when we get them giving us little snippets of information. Whereas now we don’t really get the time to have the chats. And we don’t really have them in a situation where we can ask questions to lead them on to things. If we are dealing with older children, we could have the parent in the background, in which case the child might want not might not want to talk to us. So, schools are trying to do the best they can with safeguarding, but I feel that they’re feeling that hands are tied. The other issue as well is what the definition of a ‘vulnerable’ child is. So we’ve been having vulnerable children coming into schools quite a lot recently, but as you mentioned, not all vulnerable children have been coming into schools. And that’s been an interesting one because a vulnerable child has only really been defined by having either a social worker or having a special educational needs or is on some kind of threshold with it. I am sure that there are lots of teachers who feel that there are students that should be a vulnerable child, but don’t meet those criteria. And we really would like them in school. But how do you suggest that to a parent without making it sound like you’re insulting them or upsetting them? And you’re trying to ease them in by saying we think for that child, it would be really great. It’s amore challenging situation, but you’ve got to tread really carefully and not put child even more danger at home.
Sarah Lockett: Yes, very delicate situation. Coming to Justin Reilly from Impero, do you think that the lockdown has sort of exposed cracks even or highlighted cracks in the current system of safeguarding children?
Justin Reilly: Absolutely. So speaking as a former teacher, I can tell you that we’ve seen quite a shift in the way safeguarding is being perceived in the classroom. [Safeguarding is] a huge part of the role of a teacher and it’s often underestimated the amount of time and effort it takes. As we heard earlier, we’re seeing quite a dramatic drop off in the use of our services, which include a drop off in into the number of issues that have been flagged for 60% less flags between March and April. So quite a dramatic drop off. And it’s not as if those issues aren’t then happening or as if they’ve been turned off and children are less at risk for some description. It’s that we’re just not seeing them. We are expecting teachers to do an awful lot under normal circumstances, but to do under the current circumstances, is a far more difficult and far more dangerous activity for a teacher because you don’t want false positives. You don’t want to be recording things that are not necessarily real and waste people’s time. We are also very concerned about what happens once you flag something so one of the roles that a teacher has is working to intervene with the child and help them through the situation, they find themselves in. And even that is more difficult nowadays as well. If you haven’t picked up on the problem, you’re less likely to be able to put an effective intervention with those children as well.
Sarah Lockett: Yeah, very difficult time, isn’t it? Chief Constable, just picking up on that idea about the kind of role of teachers in safeguarding, and how big is their role? Would you say they’re kind of your eyes and ears?
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: The academic evidence is very clear that teachers are far more likely to receive a first disclosure of abuse than any other profession. So I think teachers play an absolutely critical role in the wellbeing, the welfare, the safeguarding of children, and teachers, in my own experience are probably the first group of professionals that that get a sense of something’s not quite right within that child. You only have to look at the work that the police services are doing with teachers and the education authorities in terms of giving teachers a heads up when a child has been exposed to domestic abuse in the home. Because I think that again, it puts the teachers on alert, they’re then aware of some difficulties in the child’s background. It could be as simple as a notice of a concern – it could be the fact that the child is coming in, and their clothes are dirty, or that they are dirty or they’re hungry. It’s all those really, really early signs, which again, in my experience, teachers are very, very good at picking up on, identifying and passing over to the safeguarding lead within each establishment to turn around and say, we just need to just have a look at what is going on within this, this child’s environment outside of school because something isn’t quite right. And that will be even more important when children returned to school.
Sarah Lockett: Would you say all of that picking up on are they dirty? Are they fed? Are they hungry? That’s just gone out the window. Now. I don’t know who wants to answer that?
Justin Reilly: It’s not just the teachers are picking up on this, we find in a number of instances is the children’s peers, their friends, their social networks that are contributing information on which we need to act. And I think it’s extremely important to recognise that a lot of teenagers feel very isolated. But we did a study in the US in conjunction with the American Institute of Mental Health, and we think the same is true here [in the UK] and they recognised that over 80% of teenagers didn’t feel that there was an adult in their lives that they could get support from, because they didn’t feel that it was relevant, but they understood their context. And well over 60% of those were seeking out support online through relationships they built online and over 40% of those were dealing with people they’ve never met. So, it’s not just teachers. It’s very much the circle that sits around children. And I think it’s fair to say, you know, somebody of my age isn’t there. We’ll sit here and say that I truly understand what they go through, I don’t. But I shouldn’t be part of the journey to understand things as parents as well, it should be a whole group of stakeholders contributing to building that picture. And within schools, we still see many, many, many schools using paper-based systems to try and track what’s going on. And that can’t be effective. We should be considering how teachers are accessing digital devices, spotting trends and flag where there are concerns. And it’s specifically designed to put the right information in the right people’s hands, so they can then go do the intervention. Now it’s worth remembering that any digital solution is not the only solution. We’re just a mechanism, a tool or something to add to the journey, but it’s the teachers and the parents thereafter, but then has to do something with it and intervene with the children.
Sarah Lockett: I noticed that you say you say it isn’t just the tool, is it. Now notice Ceri was nodding. there as a designated safeguarding lead DSL, how has your role changed during lockdown?
Ceri Stokes: In some ways, I’ve gone from more policy writing and more admin, less dealing with the students, which is what I’m good at, or I like to think I’m good at. And so, having something where I can document something and record something like a remote, safeguarding software, it helps me because then I can get on with my job and try to do teams meetings with students. And so, there’s two different questions on how my job has changed. My job has changed because it’s more paperwork. And if my paperwork can be virtual so other people can see it, then that makes my life much easier. Using a virtual system has helped tremendously. It’s made my life so much easier. I cannot worry about other people seeing things I don’t want them to see. But then I can share with the right people that I want to it’s just made my life so much easier.
Sarah Lockett: Charlotte, if I can come to you and just ask you do you think that the current safeguarding system should change or should be updated in the light of the school closures during lockdown as it’s thrown up things that we think could work better?
Charlotte Aynsley: Yeah, I mean, first thing to say is I think the schools are doing an incredibly difficult job in very challenging circumstances. And people like Carrie are, you know, it’s not necessarily official that they have to check in with children who are online and doing remote learning. And keeping children safe in education is the thing that mandates all of all of our actions around safeguarding children in the education environment, and I heard someone saying the other day that DSL should be renamed to keeping children safe outside of education, because that feels like the new norm. And it’s really challenging for teachers to have that check in that we’ve just been talking about to make sure that that children are still safe and still okay. And I’ve heard stories of teachers going to children’s back gardens and kind of waving at them to make sure that they are okay. And that’s the extent that lots and lots of teachers are going to. And that being said, I think we do need a little bit more clarity for schools and for teachers, especially if this is going to go on about where their responsibility ends, and how that works with parents and carers, how it works with social workers, how we can bring all of that kind of system systematic support together. And because at the moment, as Simon said at the very beginning, you know, teachers are often the port of call and actors that kind of triage mechanism for children to access more support. Of course, that clarity is taken away the concerns that many teachers will have about the students that they work with and importantly, the students that actually aren’t in that category at the moment, but teachers and other professionals feel that perhaps should be. How do you safeguard those children? How do you make sure that those children are having positive experiences at home? I mean, it’s incredibly challenging when you’re just when you’re just trying to work regardless of all of the other things that you might be having to deal with. And so, I think more clarity would be good, but what it won’t do is take away the concerns that teachers have in this area.
Sarah Lockett: Can I just ask you, Claude, do you feel there’s any main lessons that schools can learn about safeguarding during this period? I don’t know whether it’s even, like a five minute chatter week with each pupil, you know, how are things going?
Claude Knights: For the children to the teachers, perhaps to build a close relationship with my mind immediately, which I think yes, like, there’s so much there’s so much beneath there are so many things that we feel feel about children, we probably concerned about them. We haven’t had time to hit that surface. So but it’s very hard to I can speaking to friends and colleagues who were trying to do this remotely. And as someone mentioned, when you’re talking to a child remotely, then maybe a sibling or a parent or another member of the family this thing you know, they because the whole thing you see castle, Since it’s built on confidentiality and privacy, it’s very, very hard to recreate that. The one thing that’s really come to my mind listening to colleagues here is just how potent it is to put all the different pieces of the puzzle together, you know, when I’ve been working with a child was at risk, and maybe I’ve got 3, 4 or 5 bits of the puzzle, but it’s the whole thing about working together. And I mean, why so many child protection issues have arisen is because we haven’t been joined up so to speak, you know, there’s pieces of the puzzle to fight or so left out there somewhere and how to recreate that will actually mean some of the carrier’s talking about the tools, the technological tools, which are obviously so helpful, but they’re still you know, that gut feeling, that feeling that one to one encounter with the person which is so important to put everything into perspective, is both the high tech, the low tech and the instinct.
Sarah Lockett: Just a quick political question before we leave this topic and the shadow Home Secretary Nick Tom assignments has said that the amount of money that the government sort of puts into supporting frontline services to help vulnerable children is woefully short of the amount that it needs to be. Do you have any thoughts? I don’t really mind who answers this about, you know, is this area funded enough? I know everything’s on the squeeze, isn’t it?
Justin Reilly: It’s very easy to sit back and say there isn’t enough money. But, I think money being spent wisely and understanding where that money should be going is probably the first port of call. So, Claude was talking about the fact that you need your gut reaction. You need intuitive energy with children and seeing what you’re observing is absolutely right. That one on one contact. And it’s looking at the people outside of the formal education system who contribute to that. So, sports clubs for the arts clubs, these systems need to be available across all those different industries. Because something that you may have heard that seems small within the school. If you couple that with something that occurred in other places, you might start to build a very different picture and you might get earlier signings that there’s something going on. So I think, is there enough money? Of course people’s minds are going to that. That’s the natural solution. But what we need to be doing is understanding where it should be going and providing huge amount of support and guidance and advice on how the holistic view around the learner can be tackled. How do we actually grab bits of data from across many, many different places to get that view and bring that into one space?
Sarah Lockett: What we’re going to talk about now is kind of our second topic which is the return to school. So primary schools in England might start to reopen from the first of June we are told this depends on the our number which is the rate of reproduction of the virus and the number of new infections staying low. So pupils in reception year one and year six might be able to return in stages. And the Prime Minister has said that he also wants secondary school pupils who are doing GCSEs and A Levels next year to get at least some time with their teachers before the school holidays, the summer holidays. And so, nothing has been said about nurseries. And there are no plans to reopen schools yet in the rest of the UK. What needs to be done though, to make that reintegration successful? because you can’t just say right, the doors are open, back you come! If I can ask Chief Constable Simon Bailey First of all, we’ve had the head of the teaching union, Patrick Roach, saying that schools shouldn’t open before September, and so how worried are you that that just leaves children, at risk children, just cast adrift unsupported until September?
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: For the last 29 minutes we’ve been talking about the risks that not just schools being closed has brought to safeguarding children, we’ve talked about the influence of peer groups, we talked about the influence of friends. And we’ve talked about the different safeguarding responsibilities that exist across the sector. So, I don’t believe that anybody would argue that we are all concerned around the risks that children currently face via online or offline, within every environment that they are, they are living within. So we can reasonably anticipate a surge at some point. I made that point earlier on in terms of the going back to school. Ultimately, this has got to be a judgement call, from my perspective between the scientists that are able to provide the best scientific and medical advice, working with the ministries across government to make the decision when it’s actually safe for children to go back because any parent or a grandparent, as I am, will just want to know that our children, our grandchildren are going to be able to return to school and be safe and as far as possible, not be exposed to any unnecessary risk. And that’s the the juggling act. That’s the challenge that faces the government ministers, the Secretary of State for education, it’s the challenge that the government faces. And ultimately, it is the responsibility of the politicians, I believe to give parents the confidence to know that their children can go back and be as safe as possible. And that is not a policing issue. Now, of course, they will have in their minds the risks that they would all recognise and there are constant conversations taking place across Westminster, around the concerns around Domestic Abuse and Child Abuse around safeguarding issues. It is that balancing act that ultimately, I believe it will come down to the government giving confidence to parents, that it is safe for your children to return to school, we would all want them there. We would all recognise that. But to achieve that, the most important thing is that the confidence is provided to those parents that they could then say goodbye to their children and know that as far as possible that they are going to be safe and secure. That’s it.
Sarah Lockett: Denmark have gone back. Haven’t they adjusted? Would you have something to say on that?
Justin Reilly: I think this is an incredibly complex issue. I do think it’s conversation. Reading taking place. So as a parent, I’m obviously worried about my children going into school with a certain level of risk. As an educator, I’m desperate for them to get back into school because I want them to continue their education. As somebody who works in the field of safe and wellbeing and monitoring, I’m very keen to make sure that we are getting children into an environment where we can look after them. But I also recognise that whilst there’s an element of choice, the very children we’re trying to observe and interact with, may not be sent to school. So, there are so many different component parts to this that I think it’s really difficult for us to really come up with one answer. I think this is going to be almost like a case by case basis. I do not envy the school governors who right now are conducting risk assessments in their schools to try and understand the level of risk and whether or not they should be opening more windings to children coming in, and how they set the school up to accommodate it. Anecdotally, I’m hearing from teachers that they want children to come back, they want to be engaging with the children, they want to be back in the classroom and teaching whatever that may look like. But of course, we don’t know what it’s gonna look like. We don’t really know what the children are going to experience as they come through the door. You don’t know what baggage they’re going to be bringing with them from the isolation from potentially issues that have a home potential loss of a loved one. There are so many different facets to this, that it is really hard to assess what the right environments going to be. Teachers signing a pledge of virtual pledge like to say that, you know, the first thing you do is you set up a safe environment for children to come into, so they can really reach their potential and you work on bringing that out in them. Are we doing that? It’s a question I, you know, 24 hours ago may well have given you a completely different answer, because I think this is an evolving fixed every day we learn more, and we’re going to need to assess that. We need to be patient with schools while they work it out.
Sarah Lockett: That’s definitely true. Isn’t it Ceri, can I just ask you what your safeguarding priorities are for children coming back to school?
Ceri Stokes: It’s going to be a tricky situation because I think we want to be able to give them the opportunity to make any disclosures or to talk through how they’re feeling. And if they’ve been bullied or I think perhaps more isolated, I think there is bullying going on. But I think that there has been a lot of things they haven’t been included in like house party chats. And they’re feeling even more isolated that way. So suddenly bringing them back into groups where suddenly they’re seeing someone that has ignored them and not talked to them for two months is going to be awkward, so we need to give them space. But I can’t visualise how that space is going to be. Because we’re going to be putting them in smaller groups, groups that they’ve got to stay with for almost the whole day and the whole week, so they won’t get a chance to see perhaps the other person they had a problem with. And they’re going to stay with one teacher who perhaps they don’t know so they haven’t got that relationship. I’ve got to then support staff because if they’re suddenly getting lots of disclosures, they’re going to feel drained. They’re going to feel helpless, and they’re going to feel overwhelmed. It could bring up their own baggage. There’s going to be so many different things and I don’t really see how it’s going to work from a safeguarding point of view for the first few weeks, where we’re trying to give people the chance to talk uncharted territory.
Sarah Lockett: Claude, what behaviours do you think teachers should be looking out for in children when they return to school?
Claude Knights: I think teachers realise that young people actually have very different experiences through lockdown. So I think as Ceri mentioned, isolation, feelings of having been rejected. Not understanding what’s happened – I was speaking to the mother of a young child who told me that he kept thinking that he’s been punished. Overnight his school schooling stopped, overnight, he couldn’t see his friends, everything was so sudden. And I mean, it broke my heart, but he looked at me and said, have I been a bad boy? Is it my fault? She contacted me to help process some of that, for me that was a sort of microcosm of feelings, and all of those may not be, or will not be resolved. So for me, when we go back, you’ve got all these variety of experiences and concerns. And so the first thing that schools I believe need to do is to help the young to reconnect.
Sarah Lockett: Charlotte, what systems to schools need to have in place to ensure a safe and healthy transition? Do they need to do anything differently?
Charlotte Aynsley: Oh, it’s so challenging, to think about what this new normality will look like. But I think there must be an emphasis on children’s mental health and their wellbeing. And that difficult transition that lots of them are going to make back into the classroom, if indeed they do at all, I think they’ll have to be less focused on academic achievement and more focused on their wellbeing their mental health, supporting them back into the school environment. I mean, for children who will potentially go back for a few weeks, and then go straight to secondary school. That would be hugely concerning for me as a parent, I mean, my son’s already at secondary school and I think he’s pretty resilient. But for those children who are potentially vulnerable to go from a primary setting to a secondary setting is just going to be so difficult and even then in September, they may only be going in once or twice a week, who knows how that’s going to work. I mean, personally, I’d like to see schools take this time to really think about a new normality. And to do potentially something quite radical. I think we’re going to have to think quite differently about education going forward, even in September, we probably aren’t going to be in a position where we’re going to be how we were pre-March. I’d like to see much more emphasis on children’s mental health and less emphasis on academic attainment, to be honest,
Sarah Lockett: Just to go back to Claude for a second at what signs of bullying would you be looking out for how would you know that that’s been going on during the lockdown?
Claude Knights: Some children will be more withdrawn or they will be keeping away because we’re going to have the social distancing. But they will be displaying a social awareness in relation to some of their peers, maybe that self-confidence and self-esteem will have fallen, if they’ve been bullied while they’ve been at home and there hasn’t been a structure to help them through it. So they may actually be coming back in a low frame of mind, feeling undervalued, not ready for learning, or not taking chances. I think that the learning aspect of learning readiness will take time, which is on top of that children have been undermined and made feel that they that somehow that they’re lacking or that they’re not up to the standard their peers would expect and so on. That is going to be a huge problem because that’s going to take rebuilding, and indeed, not overnight.
Sarah Lockett: If I can ask the Chief Constable Now, how do you think this pandemic will sort of shape how we do safeguarding in the future? Do you think you’ve learned things and you thought that’s a better way of doing it?
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: So I think it’s probably a little bit too early to, to answer that, from an informed position at this moment in time. I think the way that we work and the way the world looks after this is going to be very, very different. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. The reliance and the use of technology like this is going to change our lives forever, because I think we’ve all realised that you can work from home very successfully. Conduct conferences like this very successfully, and actually business can function have my own business. You know, my biggest Every business has 175 million a year organisation. It’s carried on pretty much seamlessly during the pandemic with people working from home and it’s been very successful. The challenge for for us My personal view on it is, is that technology plays such a pivotal role in so many forms of abuse, that the tech companies have got to do so much more. And if the tech companies do do more than children can be safer online, because we just know the volumes of people that we are resting the number of children that we are safeguarding every month just grows and grows and grows. But there is still that that important interface interaction of the safeguarding experts, teachers within that environment that I’m just not sure that technology is going to get you beyond the the conversations that Carrie will be having within her school with with with students that she’s concerned about. I’m just not sure that you can do it as well through this form of medium. So I think there is still going to be a really, really important role for those face to face conversations. And the point that was made earlier is if there is one or any number of Things that will come out of this will be that if there is a far more joined up conversation across the palm of health communities, local government, public education, the home office that actually says Do you know what we are all sitting and we’re all privy to information, that if we share it more efficiently and more effectively, children will be safer. And those conversations are taking place as a result of the of the pandemic. I now have a weekly dial in with with senior officials now from across government. I think that is one of the really positive things to come out of this. But we shouldn’t ignore the importance of the work that the likes of Ceri and her colleagues do in the school environment, because there is always going to be that face to face requirement and teachers. The safeguarding experts play an absolutely pivotal role in all of this.
Sarah Lockett: So if I can just ask Ceri and Justin, you know how you think safeguarding will change in schools after this lockdown, if at all?
Justin Reilly: I think there is a level of awareness that’s grown over the last couple months, for sure. We’re having more detailed conversations, whether there’s access to the tools or whether the tools are being used right now, is a different question. I think moving forward, we’re going to be seeing more schools to be specific. And one of the things I think that I experienced was the teachers responsibility for something they labelled with one person within the school, then very often it becomes that person’s job for everybody to represent everything people see is that all teachers recognise and they will have a pivotal part of play within that they’ll get much more involved in the process of safety and well being even in secondary schools where it’s very difficult. Remember, some teachers will only see a child for an hour a week, how do you really harvest information about a typical, so I think some of these funnier issues in the start to be to be born out. But the immediate impact for me is, if I look at what we do as a business, If there was a life changing event for an individual who then returned to work after a period of way, we, as a business would look how we ended up to them back into work. What can we do to help them? How can we support them? It might be brief, depending on circumstances we might not be might be a lengthy process to bring them in over a period of time. Teachers by nature are change managers. That’s what they do. They do it brilliantly and expertly. And yet, I don’t think they’ve been given the tools to induct an entire generation of children back into school after what has essentially been a life changing event. So I think we need to be thinking about this much more seriously, that probably does need to be more central guidance to support teachers and to support Carrie and her peers, in bringing children back into the school environment, because it isn’t, as you said early, just turn it off.
Sarah Lockett: Then as Justin was saying, what do you think is going to change safeguarding wise in schools after all this?
Ceri Stokes: I mean, I really would love if as Simon says that we start communicating with a lots of other support mechanisms, and not just the health, I mean, we there are many that you do build a relationship with and the police. But obviously counties if we could actually talk more and be more, the same with different counties, I’m in a border of three different counties, and they all work in completely different ways. And they all have different support systems or charities in place, which is great. But if you don’t know each system, then it gets really complicated. So if, if we could change safeguarding, so that is more generic, it is more the same and we communicate that with make everything much easier. I think it is really interesting to hear how everyone is being really great about saying that coming back and focus on well being and positivity. I am slightly nervous that that isn’t going to be the case that we’re going to be focusing so much on social distancing, distancing, washing hands, giving them the space, and then we’ve got the pressure from exam boards and we’ve got the pressure from God wants to still achieve the same kind of high standards that were meant to be achieving even examples now are starting to say, we’re not being any different for year 10s or year 12. And starting coursework already. So I’d love to say that we’re going to start with pastoral and rethinking it through, but I’m not convinced that that’s how it’s going to be.
Sarah Lockett: And follow up question. Carrie, can you give an example of a safeguarding issue that you have dealt with during lockdown?
Ceri Stokes: Yeah, so, I mean, there’s quite a few different little things. And there’s little nuggets, as you said, You don’t know it’s part of jigsaw one I had three or four days ago, and a student was writing a piece of work for dramatic drama lessons. And it was about a bit disclosure she was making and the teacher could straightaway screenshot it, put it onto our virtual system that we’ve got the recording systems ping straightaway to me, I could look up exactly what it was. See if it’s part of a jigsaw. Actually, it was I knew about the child I knew I was going, what else was going on with the child? It just added more information to it and I can send it straight on to the social worker.
Sarah Lockett: And I’m just thinking about the resources. And I don’t know who could answer this. Do you think schools have the resources to deal with safeguarding issues? I don’t know if it’s allocated, in terms of how many at risk children you’ve got at your school, or something like that.
Justin Reilly: So we made our core product free for all schools across the UK deliberately, because we recognise that so many schools will not using digital systems. So we’ve taken a subset of a full system, we’ve made that free, it’s not free just for the next 30 days, it’s actually free for good. And we think that we’ve done so because we recognise there is a gap and there are a number of schools that don’t have access to the right resources.
Sarah Lockett: Yes, so if that’s something that you’ve been able to do to help out kind of thing, and just looking on to Charlotte, Schools are still waiting on relevant governmental departments. Do you think they’ve been given clear guidelines on safeguarding issues and remote learning? Do you think it’s too late to have those guidelines? Have you had any guidelines? Would you say, Shawn? And there have been some guidelines?
Charlotte Aynsley: Yes. I mean, I was listening to a teacher talking this morning who said she had 16 documents from DFE in the last few weeks, and that she’d read every single one of them cover to cover so, and there have been guidelines. I think, actually, at the moment, it’s quite challenging to keep on top of all of the information that is coming through. Because Initially, I certainly felt that there wasn’t enough support for schools in delivering remote learning and some of the do’s and don’ts around what they shouldn’t shouldn’t be doing. ie, you know, should they be delivering like we are now should they be communicating with students outside of school hours? Should they be directly messaging students, via the apps that lots of schools use? Should they be using their virtual learning environments. And I had a quick look at some of the guidance that DFE certainly provided around that that issue this morning. And it doesn’t give clarity on every single area. What it does do is it says things like you should update your policy to reflect, you should be providing remote learning and you should update your safeguarding policy to reflect your new situation, which is Kerry’s just pointed out, probably a lot of her work has been around updating policies to make sure that in this brave new world, everything is is in the policy so that if a parent challenges something that school or a teacher is doing, it’s it’s written down in the policy. So I think there has been a lot of guidance. I think there are issues that certainly schools need more clarity on. I think if this is going to to be extended this this remote learning and it might be a blended learning approach and September, it might be a bit of face to face. And a bit of remote learning as well, then we do need to have much clearer guidelines around some of the topics that schools some of the challenges that schools are faced with at the moment, lots and lots of questions about what they should be delivering and and how that should work.
Sarah Lockett: Yeah, do you think in a way, this is sort of been a quite a an opportunity to see how technology can work in terms of keeping in touch with pupils? I know my children’s school, they email in a lot of homework. Is that totally standard now that they’re all using technology and remote learning to some extent or not really, you’re checking out Gary, and Charles
Justin Reilly: As a person who’s worked in the kind of tech industry, especially in the education system for 20 years, and for someone like the actor whose responsibility was to put tech in the classroom, schools have had the kit and the technology to be able to deliver Learning via via leads or various apps or websites for a long time, and they haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to do it in the way that they have now, and I think there’s lots of variation around how schools are meeting this challenge. And I think though, at the moment, there isn’t really parity for for students around the experience that they’re getting around the remote learning, some schools are doing, like, like, say things like this, where you have a teacher delivering to groups of students, some schools are emailing homework, I mean, you know, notwithstanding that schools have to cater for all of their students who may not have tech, and or who may not have parents in the home who can necessarily support their learning in that way. You know, we used to call it that the digital divide. So there’s all sorts of challenges around that. But again, we need to recognise that lots of students aren’t getting this parity of education that we would have expect in a face to face environment. And that’s going to be another challenge for us to deal with going forward. What would you say about that?
Ceri Stokes: I think it is so different for every child. It’s not just technology. It could also be some special educational needs. And specifically, maybe some kids who got Asperger’s, they find this kind of situation very challenging. They don’t want to talk to face to face, they find it very different. Now, obviously, every child is different. I’m not specifically to say those ones, Jordan don’t like this kind of thing. But you’ve got to be aware also, that it could be that they’re embarrassed their background, so you need to blur backgrounds, it could be that they are embarrassed about what they look like. So then they don’t want to talk and then they’re worried about their voice. They’re worried that they’re gonna get teased. And there’s so many variables. There’s also the idea that you don’t want to bombard them. You don’t want to kind of overload them. And I think that as long as parents know that What teachers are doing and they’re okay with it, then we’re fine. But it needs to be clarity going through saying this teacher at this school, this is what we’re providing. And this is how we’re going to do it. I think that’s the best way forward. I think it’s the unknown and comparing against everyone else that doesn’t work.
Sarah Lockett: Just one for the Chief Constable. Now, you were saying, you know, be great if you had a kind of weekly meeting with all the different agencies and the police and the teacher and the social teams and everything. I mean, is that sort of just just too much of a pipe dream in terms of putting those resources into saying, right, little Freddie’s got these issues this week or whatever? Is it just too resource intensive?
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: Now, I don’t think it is Sarah, because if if you actually look at the majority of multi agency safeguarding arrangements around the country, I think they’re getting better and better. I think the awareness of adverse childhood experiences is getting better and better. For me the importance is ensuring that there is the join up across Westminster. So it’s that activity between Department of Health pump education of Communities and Local leisure and sports for the DFE that that, for me is the is the key whereby the ministries set that strategic ambition that actually information can be freely shared concerns can be freely raised within safe environments. And then everybody accepts that as part of their their core role. It is the safeguarding of children, rather than it being done, what I often fear is it is in isolation and if we can get a fully joined up whole system approach to it, that our response to safeguarding children will be improved.
Sarah Lockett: Ah, are all those Department of Health Department of whatever on different systems, they’re all closed unique permissions, because it’s all confidential information. Is that is that the problem?
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: Well, there are there are some challenges around technology. But actually those take those challenges can be overcome and we have seen some very, very successful sites across the country where you have 50 or 60 partners, sharing information to ensure that safeguarding is at the forefront of the process and where that works. And it’s been seen to work and it’s making a big difference.
Sarah Lockett: We’ve had a couple of questions in from our audience as it were one for the Chief Constable if that’s all right. What do you see as the responsibilities of tech platforms during the crisis? With increased social media traffic as children communicate more online? Should they be stepping up and doing a better job of seeking and flagging inappropriate contacts and content?
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: Sarah I’ve, I’ve been a very public and I’d like to think prominent critique of what I think the tech companies haven’t done. They have a social and mobile responsibility to ensure that children can go online and be safe. And the headline figure is that they are not doing enough. The online harms white paper, I think has the potential to make a real difference. But at this moment in time, too many children are being abused online too many children are at risk. We are probably the best in the world across law enforcement tackling the online threat. But as I keep saying it feels very hollow. We’re arresting over 700 people a month for viewing child abuse imagery and for grooming children online, safe safeguarding 500 children every month. But the bottom line is the numbers just keep on growing and growing and growing. So much more has to be done by the tech companies, tech companies not just now in lockdown. It should have been being done years ago, and they still have a long way to go. To give me the confidence that children can be safe. When they go on the web. And they start to talk to their friends. They start to play their games. Use social media because at this point in time, there is too much risk there for me.
Claude Knights: Just one focal point I feel is that so many of the directors who have not been mandatory, you know, the industry’s been asked to do something, but it’s not there haven’t been any change to that. And I do hope that the white paper, which has been mentioned a few times, brings those very necessary chief consequences.
Justin Reilly: Tech is a huge term. It comes as a huge breath of different services that are being offered in space. But principally, I think it’s right that all different parts of the tech industry should be doing absolutely everything they possibly can to protect children and not just children, because learners of all ages and vulnerabilities through ages. So actually, we should be considering this not as a restriction of freedoms, but just a sensible monitoring and a sensible use of technology to protect as many people as humanly possible. I think it’s morally right. I think it’s something that we should be doing. legislatively, it should be something that is monitored both through the police forces and others. I think that, you know, we take extremely seriously and in fact, we bring in experts from outside our organisation to come in and check that we’re doing things right on a regular basis. We’ve just gone through an ISO certification around information security, past that we’ll be doing more and more and more and more continually. And you’ll see we work in close to this area, but we work across 90 different countries, so we’re not only looking at one happens here in the UK. We’re trying to cover off the legislation in many, many, many different countries, and actually the constables, right, you know, what the UK sets as a standard means head and shoulders above most countries in the world that we’re experiencing. But that isn’t to say that we’re doing enough. And it isn’t to say that all parties are doing enough,
Charlotte Aynsley: As Simon said, and the online harms bill was, was at the point of being an active but because of everything that’s that’s happened. It’s, it’s taken a slight backseat and I would certainly be arguing strongly that right now. It needs to be put at the fore and the actions that are detailed in the in that online harms bill around transparency and moderating and making sure that people are held to Count, if children come to harm on their platforms is absolutely crucial right now, it really is more important than ever before because of the sheer volume of, of children and young people that are using those platforms. And it simply at the moment isn’t good enough that we are putting that on hold. And I think you No, that’s a really strong message that certainly the children’s charities have been promoting and pushing out that right now at this moment something needs to happen and we can’t afford to leave it any longer.
Sarah Lockett: And that white paper is on hold. Has anything been said about how it will progress?
Charlotte Aynsley: There’s rumblings going on around that it’s at the point of being driven forward and rumblings going on, but it’s one of the things that will take priority, but whether that is the case, I mean, at the moment, we just simply don’t know.
Justin Reilly: I don’t know how easy it is for those tech platforms to kind of control conduct, I suppose they can have the algorithms that spot certain words and certain pictures. But if someone decides to register as a 13 year old boy, and they’re actually a 55 year old man, can you do anything about that maybe you can maybe you can track people’s identity just on the system that you promote. So if you if you are to take organisation, you believe in certain freedoms, and certainly we know some platforms that do, then it becomes hard to track down the individual. But we have 24,000 keywords that we’ve compiled with most of them even charities in the UK, specifically, so that we can track anything of particular harm. And so we are monitoring and continually on devices, what children are doing, specifically to try and track against those keywords to be able to flag moving forward. That isn’t something that you know, that is impossible is something that we are doing today. And we will continue to work to compile those keywords and to make sure that we’re current and staying ahead of different issues that are out there. Other tech companies can take it Volunteer organisations like ours do that work for them. And we are here to do that work. I think it’s something that is often downplayed, and very often is sort of hidden behind a philosophy rather than looking at what is probably necessary.
Sarah Lockett (host): Just a question for Ceri, which has come in from the chat. Do you think that new teachers are aware of the role they have in safeguarding when they start the job?
Ceri Stokes: I think that every new person starting will have a safeguarding induction with one of those safeguarding leads. And I think very quickly there, they will pick up what’s expected from them, the training at schools, so the training at university has changed tremendously. I mean, I remember when I did it a long time ago, it was a two hour lecture. And that was it over my time. Now it’s definitely quite serious and a horse in an interview there is some safeguarding questions so even from the word go even from the start of the school day picked up the safeguarding is a priority. And the training is a lot more intense. When you start you get an induction day which kind of scares you a little bit because we focus on what could be happening. And but then we make sure we support every new staff that joins but I think safeguarding I think everyone picks up now that safeguarding is really important. It’s changed so much.
Sarah Lockett (host): Yes, as it is a bit like nutrition, isn’t it? When you do a medical degree is like one day’s nutrition training kind of thing? Is it is it is it does it then become 1% of your job 10% of your job, does it become a big part of your job?
Ceri Stokes: Yes, well, it depends. I mean, it depends. If you’re an entity and you don’t have say, a tutor, then perhaps you could be just spotting signs. If you’re a tutor. If you’ve got a group that you’re with all the time, it can take up quite a big chunk. If you’ve got a vulnerable child within your class, then I would say it takes up a huge amount of your time. You could be attending regular meetings with social services. You could be contacting social services to do reviews, you could be terribly reviews online, it can take up a huge amount of your time.
Sarah Lockett (host): I suppose, it’s not a particular strata of society that this effects is it? It affects any type of school or any type of pupil?
Claude Knights: This isn’t about class or age; it could happen to anyone. Something that I’ve had concerns for some time about not, I mean, you said some proof period. Take a topic like bullying which is a safeguarding issue. Some students teachers will only have had an hour or two lecture. And then I was told by the teacher that they felt like goodness, you know, I’ve only scratched the surface. It’s the inductions in schools of paying more and more important, and those schools are doing well rewarded by the fact that they have a more aware and competent staff in relation to those issues. But it’s still sometimes marginalised in secondary schools with the subject teaching seems to be still below the golden standard, if you like, where we teach you the whole child subject.
Sarah Lockett: are there any groups of children who are more vulnerable to this or less vulnerable? I don’t know whether police see certain families again and again?
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: The online threat doesn’t recognise any form of social strata, full stop. So I, the notion that too many parents have that their child isn’t out, isn’t hanging around or street corner, is up in their bedroom and he’s online as safe is just an absolute misnomer. And an I have got to know, professional parents well, whose children have been subjected to the most appalling forms of abuse. And they didn’t know what was taking place. So any notion that you you fit a particular risk category, I’m sorry, is just a myth. This recognises No Barriers at all.
Charlotte Aynsley: Yeah, I would certainly agree with that. And and it’s important to recognise that sometimes children can go in and out of vulnerability depending on their current circumstance and current situation at the moment. Again, we’ve probably got more children that would potentially be in that vulnerable category because they’re quite isolated. And they’re going to be online. More. I would say though, the positive side of the online area around supporting children is that what we do know is particularly teenagers, support services like that. ChildLine, which are ways where you can talk to somebody online relatively anonymously and have a conversation that you might potentially find quite difficult face to face with a parent or with a teacher, or even with a pair are proving to be very positive for children. And there’s lots of services and support out there, like young minds like ChildLine, who are providing services to children during this lockdown and outside of this lockdown. And it means that they can talk relatively anonymously about some of the issues that concern them. And there’s, there’s quite a bit of evidence, especially for teenagers that says, you know, they find this much easier than having these really awkward and face to face conversations, especially around sex and relationships. But that that means that all of these services that sit behind that have to be joined up that we’ve already talked about, it means that in order for children to be able to access the support that they need Either from social services or police, lots of these services need to be joined up, which at the moment, they’re probably not as joined up as we would like them to be.
Just to let our attendees know that the recording of all of this webinar is going to be made available to you after the webinar has finished in the next couple of hours, and also the research commissioned by Imperial which we referred to earlier on in the session, and we’re working up to finishing and rounding up this webinar now so I could maybe just have a kind of Final thoughts that you would like, if there’s one thing you want people to remember from today’s webinar about safeguarding just just give me your final nugget and if I can come to the Chief Constable first.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey: Most important thing coming out for me is that is our preparedness for when lockdown is lifted, children returned to school. We’ve all got to be prepared to cope with I predict what would have been previously unforeseen demand and how we then go and prioritise the risk that we’re presented with.
Claude Knights: I’d like to just be aware that you know, classes in classrooms across Britain that would be our people are particularly vulnerable because of their, if you like their ethnic identity, I’ve been dealing with a situation where Chinese children are subjected to rendus bullying, even lockdown are simply not about to move in a safe way. So just be aware that there are some vulnerabilities that which are bad just because of the situation and the Miss misinformation, the false news. So just another aspect to this very, very complex and multifaceted So the way that the irresponsible press have been supporting that in the early days, yes, I mean, families have been shunned and people run away from them and charging your folks are your fault. And the children particularly being very concerned about going back to school because they received very horrible from peers who were quite fine with them before. So the racism basically that could have arisen from this
Charlotte Aynsley: I think what I would like to see is much more focus on on children’s well being and their mental health when they go back into that transition of school and really supporting them through that transition and making it a priority actually, that they feel safe and secure in whatever environment is whether it’s high or school because we all know that children can’t learn effectively, unless they feel safe and secure. So I would really like to see this kind of radical approach around making sure that they feel that and as far as possible in the current circumstances, an anxious child doesn’t learn. For me, I think it’s used the tools available and talking to parents, teachers to other learners as well. There are services out there, there are tools available, use them, get the guidance and get the support and let’s work on this together.
Ceri Stokes: yes, working together communication, trying to talk to as many different people as possible and giving chance a chart the child’s talk, they might not talk the first week, it might be the second week. Just give them time and give everyone the time. connectivity, trauma and all that. Got to go through a period of healing, even those people going back to work afterwards. It’s about it has been an absolutely unprecedented when this lockdown started in my lifetime, there’s been none of our lifetimes Has there ever been any even in the war, there’s not been something like this as that.
I would like to say thank you so much to all of you for taking part in this and for your insights and your contributions. And that’s been amazing and really useful. And thank you very much for giving us your time. I’ve also got to thank Of course, our producers, Sean Evans, a top line film and also our question moderator, Katie Chodosh at top line communications. So thank you so much everyone for taking part. I guess we all just leave the meeting, don’t you but the but that’s the end of what we’ve got to say today. Thank you so much. Give us away. Thank you very much.