Research from safeguarding software specialists Impero has revealed that 87% of teachers are concerned about the impact of school closures on their ability to safeguard students – a factor that 82% of teaching staff feel forms a large part of their jobs.
Throughout the lockdown, 40% of teachers have been most worried about protecting their students, followed by disruption to learning and development (30%), limited access to school meals (such as free breakfasts) (16%), and rising mental health issues caused by social distancing and self-isolation (14%).
Almost three-quarters (72%) of respondents claimed they had reached out to ‘at risk’ pupils during the period of schools closures with information on where to go should they need safeguarding help. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds (67%) have flagged concerns, or intend to flag concerns, about ‘at risk’ pupils’ safety to local authority social care teams.
When asked how they record safeguarding matters, almost half (48%) said they do so through manual systems (Microsoft Excel and paper records), while the other half (47%) use a dedicated records management system.
With child protection referrals dropping by more than 50% in some UK regions, it’s clear that the teacher’s role in safeguarding students is pivotal.
Earlier this week, the Department for Education (DfE) announced the phased reopening of primary schools in June, with class sizes restricted to 15 and a staggered timetable to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission among the student body. While this is good news for many vulnerable children, the phased reopening still leaves many ‘at risk’ children at home in potentially unsafe environments.
The research was discussed in a virtual roundtable called, Safeguarding during the pandemic and beyond, on 19 May – a session which can be downloaded and viewed via this link: https://we.tl/t-coSC2JlhE9.
“Teachers play an absolutely critical role in the wellbeing, welfare and the safeguarding and children,” said chief constable Simon Bailey, a panelist at the roundtable.
“Teachers, in my own experience, are the first group of professionals to get a sense for when something is not quite right. It could be that a child comes into school and their clothes are dirty, they are dirty or they’re hungry – it’s all those really early signs that teachers are very good at picking up on, identifying and then passing on to the safeguarding lead. That will be even more important when children return to school.”