Children can be the most interesting little things on the planet, with their naive one-liners and amazing comedic timing (I’ve heard the best anecdotes from many a teacher friend). They have the ability to make you proud, make you feel better, and all in all make you root for them.
I’m sure working with kids was one of the biggest factors that determined your own teaching career – tell me I’m wrong – because there you are in a classroom with future doctors and directors and lawyers (and dare I say…fellow teachers?), building their knowledge lesson by lesson and essentially taking charge of their induction into the big wide world.
The first idea this thought outlines is that you as a teacher are important. You’re a walking embodiment of trust and you have direct responsibility of the children you teach for at least 40 hours a week – you shape their minds as well as their futures (no pressure), so it’s essential you make sure nothing hinders their development during this time.
Simultaneously as important is the realisation that children are going to be contributing to the world in some years’ time as much as you do now. If everything they experience both in and out of school moulds their character, it’s clear that it’s not just what you teach that matters anymore.
From troubles at home all the way to serious neglect, this blog is to get you thinking not just about what to do when things take a turn for the worse, but to encourage you to be alert to the smallest of details that could indicate a much bigger issue in your pupils’ lives.
When you suspect mistreatment of any sort is when the safeguarding initiative should kick in. It’s one of the most important strategies for ensuring children feel safe and cared for. It’s about making sure as much as you can that they grow up without anything that’d damage their development, and essentially about doing the right thing.
In a nutshell, safeguarding is defined as:
- protecting children from maltreatment;
- preventing impairment of children’s health or development;
- ensuring that children 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
Kids are impressionable – you know it, I know it. What they absorb from their environment becomes their own. If they’re exposed to threatening and unsafe behaviours, they risk being massively affected even if it isn’t explicit, and it’s preventing this risk that is arguably a teacher’s responsibility as much as anyone else’s.
A common misconception is that only a parent or relative takes the responsibility of a child’s physical and mental wellbeing – a common one, but false in my opinion, because I believe safeguarding is a set of procedures every adult with authority over a child should support and execute.
You’re just as much a port of call as is mum or dad, right?
Another misconception is believing ‘child protection’ is the same as ‘safeguarding’ – and however similar they’re implied to be, I can tell you that’s certainly not the case. The first is about taking the necessary steps in order to help children who are undergoing abuse – safeguarding also talks about taking action if it’s necessary, but additionally stresses the need to push child welfare whether an incident needs addressing or not.
Rather than dealing with the problem when it occurs, it ensures measures are in place in order to promote the safety of children from the get go – this is significant because it implies the children you teach don’t begin to matter more when they undergo harm, but matter always.
Safeguarding isn’t just about tackling the problem, then, but trying to make sure the problem never happens in the first place – that’s why I champion an awareness of the procedure so strongly.
Children are counting on us: rather than acting when it’s too late, isn’t it far safer to act when there isn’t anything to go on?
Prevention beats reaction, after all…