By Frank Crouwel, Managing Director of NW Systems Group
2015 has already seen the publication of two revised pieces of statutory guidance from the Department of Education which together state and clarify increasingly prescriptive duties on schools in the area of safeguarding. The first, Keeping Children Safe in Education was published alongside additional statutory guidance which details how schools need to work closely with other government agencies (notably the police, health and social services) to help safeguard and promote the welfare of children in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.
Keeping Children Safe in Education lays out key requirements for all schools and colleges for under 18 year olds. These requirements (detailed in Part One of the 57-page document) include: “protecting children from maltreatment; preventing impairment of children’s health & development; ensuring they grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes”.
School governors, teaching staff and, in particular head teachers, will be under no illusion about the proactivity that is expected of them from reading some key paragraphs of the guidance:
“Everyone who comes into contact with children and their families has a role to play in safeguarding children. School and college staff are particularly important as they are in a position to identify concerns early and provide help for children, to prevent concerns from escalating. Schools and colleges and their staff form part of the wider safeguarding system for children…Schools and colleges should work with social care, the police, health services and other services to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.”
Schools, led by their already hard-pressed head teachers, are right at the front line of safeguarding our children in law it seems. They are required to act as an early warning system – leading engagement with children’s parents and relevant public agencies if they need to be drawn in to support or manage children getting into difficulties.
Expectations have been ratcheted up by a spate of inter-agency communication failures which have led to poor outcomes for children. Ofsted’s own safeguarding policy, which it uses as the basis of measuring schools’ performance on safeguarding, requires the following:
- Identifying specific safeguarding concerns that need to be raised with a senior manager within the responsible provider and/or authority as part of inspection or regulation work. Such concerns could include but may not be limited to:
-no designated senior person for child protection within a school
-inadequate safeguarding arrangements in a nursery
-incomplete records of serious incidents in a children’s home
-inadequate response to bullying within a school
-poor and unsafe social work practice by a council or other agencies in the recent past
-incomplete records of recruitment checks/inadequate recruitment checking processes
-lack of clarity about the safeguarding needs of children, young people and vulnerable adults
-concern about the presence of radicalisation and/or extremism within any setting or the failure to address such issues appropriately
-failure to share information on children and young people on child protections plans with relevant providers.
-gathering evidence on the effectiveness of safeguarding arrangements to inform inspection judgements. (This will vary depending on the context and focus of the individual inspection)
-the role of designated staff in Ofsted’s Application, Regulatory and Contact team in responding to notifications of serious incidents and child deaths
-responding to specific child protection concerns about children at risk of significant harm that are likely to need to be referred through to social care services and possibly the police.
We have found, that because the safeguarding burden falls so heavily on schools today, some heads are turning to IP video technology to help spot problems with pupils and staff early, and address potential safeguarding issues in a more proactive way.
Particularly when dealing with other agencies such as social services and the police, hard evidence of safeguarding issues such as bullying or abuse needs to be irrefutable. With this in mind existing CCTV systems in some schools are being extended beyond the school’s perimeter and play ground, right into the classroom. These IP video systems can provide more reliable and higher quality images which can be used to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, what happened if an incident is reported.
Notable issues that many schools have suffered is reports by pupils that a teacher has verbally bullied or even hit them. In these cases, it’s the pupil’s word against the teacher’s when incidents come to the attention of the school’s head teacher. The head’s first duty is to make a judgement whether the allegation has substance. If there is some doubt and further investigation is warranted, then he/she is duty- bound to suspend the teacher concerned while an investigation is conducted.
The level of disruption caused by these incidents can be very significant. But if head teachers can call on reliable, high definition video recordings they can establish what was really happening before and during the incident – they can escalate or dismiss incidents much more quickly and decisively. Children are thus protected better by the new technology while they equally know that they will be found out if they make false allegations. The potential for improved pupil-staff relations, higher standards of school discipline, and ultimately educational performance, is self-evident.
CASE STUDY – Wirral Hospitals’ School, Joseph Paxton Campus in Claughton, Birkenhead
NW Systems provided an advanced IP video system to help Wirral Hospitals’ School, Joseph Paxton Campus in Claughton, Birkenhead, meet its high safeguarding standards. This school, which has an enviable reputation as one of this region’s foremost special needs schools, was given an Outstanding rating by Ofsted in November 2014.
The flexibility and reliability of the new video monitoring system, which NW Systems designed and installed, has helped to meet the specific child protection needs of this co-educational school for children aged between 11 and 16 who cannot be catered for in mainstream education.
The new system provides new high quality IP cameras in all 22 classrooms, two music rooms, as well as in the school’s mentoring rooms, IT suite, some administration offices, internal concourses and stairwells. Classroom cameras help monitor the use of the rooms and provide evidence of any incidents that occur.
The whole 45-camera video system guarantees enough capacity of up to 30 days of recording. All video recordings are password-protected and only accessible to authorised personnel. All security equipment is placed in a locked and secure room in the school. Recordings are backed up and recorded for a number of days before automatic deletion. Video recordings needed for further investigation can be exported in tamper-proof DVD form to be passed onto external authorities – in the event of an intrusion, vandalism or a break-in for example.
Chris Barry, ICT Systems and Network Co-ordinator of the Wirral Hospitals’ Schools, highlighted the cost-effectiveness and ease-of-use of the new video system and affirmed the extremely positive feedback he has received since it went live. He added: “From my point of view, if it helps protect one child, or one teacher, then that’s value for money.”
Derek Kitchen, Head Teacher of Wirral Hospitals’ Schools, added: “Such a high quality and user-friendly system contributes hugely to the safety and well-being of students, staff and visitors. It also protects the school when closed.”
Frank Crouwel, Managing Director of NW Systems, concluded: “It is great to see that IP video security can help underpin the strong safeguarding record of this highly-regarded and – now officially – ‘Outstanding’ school.”