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safeguarding learners

Safeguarding learners during school closures and beyond – what do the teachers think?

15th June 2020

For schools, learners and parents across the country, life changed dramatically on March 23, the day lockdown was announced, with drastic risks for safeguarding the most vulnerable children in the UK.

The Children’s Commission estimates that in England there are 2.3 million children growing up in a vulnerable family background – around 829,000 of these children are ‘invisible’ to services. Removed from their usual support services, teachers and experts are very concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of these children, especially due to the intensified pressure of living in a difficult situation, loneliness and isolation.

Despite the government keeping schools open for vulnerable learners, the Department for Education released data that showed as little as 5% of ‘at risk’ children were attending school. In this time, ChildLine released figures stating they delivered over 7,000 counselling sessions to children and young people regarding Coronavirus, with a significant increase in concerns regarding mental health and wellbeing.

To understand what schools are going through and what this meant, we spoke to teachers directly to understand their concerns around school closures and how this may affect safeguarding.

How are schools managing safeguarding concerns during lockdown?

Learners usually spend 190 days at school per year, putting teachers, and school staff, in a prime position to identify concerns, worries and vulnerable learners. As a result, it’s not surprising that 82% of teachers believe safeguarding is a large part of their job, but do they have the resources in place to support this?

  • 92% of teachers confirmed that their school has all the resources needed to ensure staff can safeguard all learners.
  • 48% of schools currently log and manage child wellbeing information and concerns manually.
  • 24% of these use Excel to log concerns and 24% use paper-based records.

Safeguarding should always be possible, not matter what the circumstance, which is why it’s very concerning to see 48% of respondents using Excel and paper-based documents which are not accessibly 24/7 and rely solely on location.

What are teachers most concerned about during school closures?

Teachers are most concerned the following:

  1. Limited access to school meals
  2. Rising mental health challenges as a result of social distancing and lockdown
  3. Disruption to leaning and development
  4. The safeguarding and protection of children

Our survey found that 87% are worried schools’ closures are negatively impacting safeguarding of children, yet was rated number 4.

How are ‘at-risk’ learners being protected?

When we spoke to teachers, 13% were not aware of their school’s ‘at risk’ child protection procedures. Worryingly, over a quarter (28%) had not communicated with ‘at risk’ learners and parents during school closures to let them know where to go if they need safeguarding help.

A third (33%) had not or do not intend to flag concerns about ‘at risk’ pupils’ safety during school closures with local authority social care teams. Of that third, most are contacting ‘at risk’ children who are not at school via phone (45%), followed by email (31%) and home visits (14%) – a key contribution to the 75% drop of child protection referrals across the UK during lockdown.

How can Impero support school safeguarding?

We believe all schools should be able to safeguard their learners, irrespective of budgets and circumstance, which is why Impero Back:drop, our free digital safeguarding tool, designed to simplify the recording and management of student wellbeing, is free for schools, not just now, but forever.

Impero Back:drop enables teachers and safeguarding staff to access a history for each student, including pastoral, child protection, behavioural concerns, or mental health needs, as well as first aid incidents, medical requirements and a log of medicine administration, from a safe and secure interface. The system highlights patterns and connects external agencies for a single comprehensive view that enables early interventions and can flag warning signs of serious concerns including suspected home abuse or suicide risk.

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