Understanding Safeguarding for Children and Their Educational Experiences
A Guide for Students, ECTs and School Support Staff
Table of contents(20 chapters)
All school staff (teaching and support) now have a duty and obligation to protect and safeguard children in their care. To be able to do this, school staff need to understand what safeguarding is and how to respond, but also need to understand a number of other concepts such as: why children end up in vulnerable situation in the first place, how teaching practices reduce vulnerability, and how to engage with children and young people in an effective and efficient manner. This chapter explores these latter types of concerns and in doing so identifies that teachers and support staff are key professionals in identifying vulnerability, preventing the escalation of concerns, engaging with children and supporting them and their education over time as they engage with and attend school. This chapter also contains a detailed breakdown of the structure and the content of this edited collection and concludes with reflective comments about the implications of this collection for you as an individual and in your career: working with children and young people in educational establishments.
What makes a child vulnerable to harm? What is it about how we conceptualise vulnerability that draws us to thinking about individual traits and characteristics rather than broader systems and structures of power? In this chapter, we consider these questions by exploring student experiences of vulnerability in schools. Drawing on a case study of two student experiences of harmful sexual behaviour, we explore harm, abuse and vulnerability as spatial. In doing so, we present school responses to forms of harm, drawing a division between responses which focus on vulnerable individuals and the potential of responses which target the systemic, spatial and contextual causes of harm. We conclude by offering Contextual Safeguarding as an approach for addressing the social conditions of harm.
This chapter examines the term Vulnerability and interrogates the assumptions held about it as a concept often mutually agreed upon but not mutually understood. Policy and practice emerging out of a drive to identify those deemed vulnerable is common to all aspects of work across multiple state agencies such as schools, care and social work sectors but across these professions, those regarded as vulnerable are often grouped together without an in-depth analysis of cause. Identity Politics provides a lens from which to examine these issues and to begin to address some of the ways individuals may be regarded as vulnerable. Emerging from this, an analysis of different aspects of identity gives rise to modes of vulnerability and what this might mean for professionals engaged with individuals whose needs are multiple and complex. The political context for an examination of how vulnerability is understood and addressed across state sectors is introduced.
Labelling is the product of imposing one's perceptions on the comparatively powerless, and it damages those who label as well as those to whom labels are attached. This chapter concentrates on the latter, although it does contain messages and advice for those who label. While damage is rarely intentional, it is substantial and inevitable and can be avoided with the application of little more than common sense, professional awareness and human decency. We know that statistical trends are not statements of absolute truths, yet many teachers and senior staff make decisions based on just that misapprehension – whether with regard to ethnicity, gender, age, [dis]ability and other socially constructed categories – and can even be influenced by such non-educational trivia as surnames and post codes. The statistics do not lie, they simply tell us exactly what they tell us and that is almost nothing about any particular school student. Labelling is easy; we all do it in various contexts, and it is immensely damaging. This chapter explains how and why that is the case, and offers an alternative approach.
It is dangerous in relation to practice and safeguarding to conclude that risks exist, or do not exist, in relation to a particular type of parental behaviour and family functioning. Using parental alcohol use as an illustrative topic this chapter explores definitions of alcohol use, the significance of parental use and the mechanisms and ways it is believed alcohol use leads to harms and then affects children and their educational experiences. In doing so this chapter recognises that it can be challenging and difficult to identify different thresholds of harms and risk from parental substance use alone. It also recognises and concludes by critically reflecting on the role teachers and educational staff have to play in assessing need, reducing pupil and parental stigma and shame around alcohol use, understanding the position of the parent and what children need to encourage their involvement and discussion around concerns like parental alcohol use.
Enhancing Pupil Engagement and Teaching Practice
Complex and Hidden Lives
The children and young people (CYP) we encounter in the classroom bring with them a range of experiences and stories about their lives outside of school. This chapter starts by considering a theoretical perspective using an ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) so we can understand and locate the child or young person at the heart of the different social worlds they encounter. It then uses a fictionalised narrative approach (Clough, 2002) to discuss the life of one child. This narrative is then explored using the ecological systems theory and discusses how the complex social world of one child can impact upon their time in school. Finally, the chapter concludes by suggesting ways in which the child's experiences of school could have had different outcomes if their life had been understood in a more holistic way. The chapter also sets the context for the rest of the section: Enhancing Pupil Engagement and Teaching Practice through the child's narrative as a means of highlighting the impact of the topics in the section on an individual's life story.
The readiness for the full participation of all children in mainstream education varies within schools, from school to school, and across countries with children in mainstream education. Whilst the concept of inclusive education has generated much debate, practice remains questionable and variable around type, place, support and learning and teaching resources. This chapter is concerned with how an inclusive learning environment can be achieved by developing a shared community of practice (Wenger, 2010) for all children. Using lessons learnt from developing a whole-school approach to including disabled learners, I hope to present a rationale for educators to gain a deeper understanding around the need to identify and support all children's learning and participation in school, which presently is often overlooked. Whilst inclusive education is still on the agenda, it is so at the cost of competing initiatives within the educational system which practises a dichotomy between ‘special’ and ‘mainstream’ education. Finally, there will be an attempt to expose the idealised notions of the fundamental principle of ‘schools for all’. Social justice, disability, equity and human rights issues that underpin the social model of disability are being responded to within the ‘special’ education discourse, often creating exclusionary practice and inequalities within education.
Since the inception of formal education, negative labelling of students by teachers has been a norm in education settings. However, research on student outcomes has shown that this practice is contrary to the principles of quality education and legislation mandating the rights of the children to an education that prepares them for a fulfilled future. Still, the practice has persisted in education in various forms. This chapter examines how teacher agency can be used as a tool to uproot negative labelling from the school systems to allow teachers to create positive learning environments where every learner is valued as an individual with rights.
A Manifesto for Attuned Teaching
Our focus in this chapter is how we can adopt an attuned teaching approach and why this would be supportive of all children and young people. We explore its significance for children who may have experienced trauma through loss of, or separation from, birth family or other significant life experience causing vulnerability. We have chosen to write as if we are in a shared space with you; perhaps you can imagine a conversation in the staff room. We are hoping our experiences and knowledge help you to reflect and provide you with ideas of how to develop your professional practice and to gain confidence.
The most recent research on the prevalence of young caring in secondary school–age children (Joseph et al., 2019) suggests that one in five 11–16 year olds have a caring role. There are inherent challenges with identifying children and young people (CYP) who have caring responsibilities; they find themselves in the role because of love for a family member, as well as the lack of provision to meet the needs of the person they are caring for (Keith & Morris, 1995), not because they have consciously chosen to become a carer, and so do not identify with the concept (Smyth, Blaxland, & Cass, 2011). School can be both precarious and a place of sanctuary for young carers (Becker & Becker, 2008). Experiences of education, as with many aspects of caring, exist on a continuum with no young carers’ educational experience being the same (Dearden & Becker, 2003). Schools have a pivotal role in identifying, understanding and supporting young carers to prevent their education from being adversely affected.
Understanding the Nature of Concerns and Risk
All school staff need to have a critical self-understanding of how their perceptions of children, childhood and risk inform their practice when they are engaging with children and reflecting on factors linked to safeguarding. This chapter begins by discussing and briefly revisiting the duties and obligations that all staff have in relation to safeguarding children in educational settings. It then goes onto discuss the concept of teachers as ‘significant non parental adults’ (Rishel, Sales, & Koeske, 2005) and explores some of the finer details of why teachers and teaching staff are key players in relation to identifying risks, preventing harms whilst dealing with safeguarding concerns. We conclude this chapter by illustrating and arguing that teachers are key players identifying the needs of children and also have the potential to influence positive behaviour change in them. We also set a context for the remainder of this section: understanding the nature of concerns and risk by outlining the contribution each of the remaining individual chapters has to bring to this collection.
Adolescent alcohol consumption has declined in most high-income countries over the last decade; however, the prevalence of drinking under the legal age of 18 years remains high. There are several confounding factors related to alcohol use inclusive of gender, poverty, parental education, parental alcohol use and parental mental health difficulties. In addition, young people placed under the care of the state are disproportionately affected by alcohol misuse.
Longitudinal research has shown a linear risk between alcohol consumption and educational performance. Adolescents that have heavy alcohol consumption are associated with lower enrolment in post-secondary education, potentially reduced earnings and heightened job instability.
Universal interventions are one potential way to provide education regarding problematic alcohol use and its consequences. A recent Cochrane review identified that school-based interventions have potential to provide adolescents with the necessary knowledge, skills and opportunities for young people to remain alcohol free and decrease the risk of multiple risk-taking behaviours.
Illicit substance use can have a detrimental effect on a young person's life, abilities, psychosocial well-being, educational participation, attainment and outcomes. It is associated with and can lead to increased vulnerability and be a serious safeguarding concern. This chapter explores the concept of illicit substance as a process of ‘normalisation’ among children and young people. It also explores the concept of ‘game playing’, poly and tertiary substance use and considers some of the implications of illicit substance use and of young people becoming involved in ‘County Lines’. Understanding the nature, scale, extent and consequences of illicit substance use, and how young people are portrayed and stigmatised by those around them are important in relation to responding appropriately to need, and in assessing safeguarding concerns. This chapter will also discuss these concerns and conclude by critically considering the implications of illicit substance use for teachers and schools, whilst considering appropriate responses which identify and reduce risk.
This chapter explores how children and young people become involved with County Lines gangs, and what issues Educators need to be aware of when working with a child or young person who has been ‘groomed’ into this activity. It begins with an overview of the policies which have framed young peoples' experiences since 2010, the proliferation of vulnerable contexts, and the resultant risk for particular groups of young people. It concludes that schools are one of the key agencies that may be able to identify early signs of young people's involvement in County Lines activities, and to act to ensure young people are given appropriate support.
Food Insecurity in School-Aged Children
Food insecurity in the United Kingdom has been described as a ‘public health emergency’ which has been exacerbated by the onset and continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on research evidence and a reflective account from a current primary school teacher, this chapter highlights the multifaceted impacts of food insecurity for children in schools. It also draws attention to some important considerations around food, education and food-related interventions for practitioners supporting children in schools.
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