Whether you’re new to the profession, country, or school, it can be hard to know what the safeguarding procedure is.

In the UK, the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act was passed in 2006, which came in after two young girls were murdered by their school caretaker. We’re all in agreement that, when it comes to child safety, prevention is better than cure.

Although each school will have its own procedures and guidance for safeguarding, there are some basics that all new or supply teachers in the UK should be familiar with.

This is why we’ve created a four-step guide: safeguarding made simple!

Hopefully this will put your worries to bed.


1. What is safeguarding?

There’s a difference between safeguarding and child protection. It’s important to get it right.

Safeguarding means the structures and systems put in place to prevent children from coming to harm. This stage would come before child protection, so that the chances of children coming to harm are reduced.

Child protection means the procedures to respond effectively to concerns about a child. If you have a concern about a child’s safety, be it at home, at school or online, child protection is your response and its effect to resolve this concern.

As you can see, safeguarding is preventative, and child protection is responsive. We hope that’s a bit clearer.

Every school in the UK will have its own safeguarding policy. This policy lays out all procedures for staff to follow should there be a concern, and identifies who the child protection officers are within the school, as well as the governor who is responsible.

Child protection would come into play if you notice or are suspicious of any signs of abuse on a child. These signs could include:

  • Physical injury and harm
  • Bullying
  • Online Harassment
  • Forced sexual activity or exploitation
  • Not feeding a child properly
  • Not providing adequate clothing
  • Not responding to a child’s needs
  • When an adult takes advantage of a child
  • Being verbally inappropriate towards a child
  • Making a child unhappy
  • Failing to act when a child is unhappy

Intelligent and effective safeguarding will help children understand what they can do in harmful situations, as well as what you can do as a teacher to prevent the above from occurring.


2. How to react?

It’s not always easy to know how to react or what to say to a child who has raised a concern with you. For starters, children rarely speak out about problems they are facing, be it out of fear, embarrassment or just simply not knowing if they can say anything at all.

So the fact that a child has had the courage to disclose something is, in itself, important. You can start by reassuring them that they did the right thing in coming to you and speaking up.

You should also make the student aware that you will need to tell another member of staff about this issue, but that you will keep the information as confidential as you can. This can sometimes scare children out of sharing, so be sure to carefully explain that what you are doing is to help them, not to make them uncomfortable or worried.

It is crucial that you do not lead the conversation. A leading question or suggestive interrogation is a question that suggests a particular answer. When a child is explaining a problem they are facing, it must come entirely from them, and in their words. This way, you will have a better view of the problem and it can be tackled more effectively.

Remember that each school will have designated members of staff who are responsible and trained to deal with safeguarding concerns. If you’re unsure of how to react to a child’s disclosure, you must refer to the right person – which is why it’s crucial that you know who you can speak to.


3. Who do you speak to?

Every school will have a designated safeguarding lead. This is the person who is responsible for safeguarding in the school.

When starting at a new school, it’s important that you find out who your designated safeguarding lead is so that you know who you should speak to if you have a concern about a child’s welfare.

You should refer to your school’s safeguarding policy to find out who you should speak to if you’re not sure. This will tell you who to talk to as well as the procedures to follow.

If, for example, you have concerns about possible radicalisation, weapons or terrorism threats, then you can also refer to PREVENT, which is part of Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy. This is most likely a job for the safeguarding lead rather than you, so make sure you run all concerns through the appropriate person first.


4. Who and where is the Senior Leadership Team?

Your Senior Leadership Team (SLT), sometimes known as a Senior Management Team, will vary in structure and number in different schools, depending on the size and nature of the school itself.

The SLT is the group of senior staff who oversee either the whole school or certain departments within it. An SLT will usually include:

  • Headteacher
  • Deputy Headteacher
  • Key Stage Leaders (in some schools)
  • Core Subject Coordinators
  • Year Group Leaders (usually in larger schools only)

The SLT has to consider many aspects of the school and grounds, including (but not limited to):

  • The organisation of staffing within the school
  • Ensuring that all teaching and learning is in line with the current educational curriculum and national levels of expectation
  • Providing professional development for staff
  • All educational equipment and its maintenance
  • All constructional maintenance and development
  • Safe buildings and work environments

You should find your SLT easily in their designated offices within the school. As a new teacher, the SLT should be made known to you by your manager, but if not make sure you ask so that you are aware of where to find them if necessary.

If you are working as a supply teacher in a school for a day, it’s not always clear who the SLT are. Ideally, the Head of Cover or Resource Manager should provide you with details of the SLT when you enter the school, along with your timetable for the day.

If this information hasn’t been provided, you should ask an appropriate member of staff for the names and details of who you should contact in the event that a problem or concern should arise.

It is likely that your designated safeguarding lead will be a member of the SLT in your school.