A year of lockdowns, last minute guidance and uncertainty… a review, not a forecast we hope. Over the last year the reliance on DSL roles has grown within education settings and as a nation. It has also been a time of huge social, health and financial pressure as a nation with families’ lives changed through bereavement, ill health, redundancy or through the varied pressures of the pandemic which have affected the more vulnerable families more than others.
In this context you may be wanting to think about what to write in your annual safeguarding report for senior leaders and governors. The risks you are working with have risen – we’ve mentioned domestic abuse and referrals in respect of children seriously injured or killed both up around a quarter. People have taken advantage of the impact on services and increased unstructured time for children and young peopel to exploit online and in person. Pressures have increased on young people, families, colleagues and ourselves.
At the same time there has been a camaraderie and sense of shared challenge that is vital for effective safeguarding practice. Seeing teachers, leaders and other staff thinking innovatively, going the extra mile to deliver food parcels, being there at the end of a phone for one another and taking action where they see risk and vulnerability builds faith in our capacity to help children achieve their goals. Adapting to new ways of working has also created new ways to build relationships with families and approaches to keeping children safe. You will want to take this learning into 2021/22.
Although we are heading into a challenging financial climate you will want to consider the resources you will need next year to address these rising needs. DSLs are highly elastic, but there are limits! The consultation on Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021 adds additional duties and highlights the need to ensure “DSLs, schools and colleges have the capacity and support to provide the right help”. Some of this might require a request for additional resources, or looking to ways to create additional time.
We will be with you through the coming year and the implementation of Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021 with regular bulletins, briefings and presentations. Our members value the expertise and time saved through the monthly resources – “saving us reinventing the wheel”. If you’re not sure, try us for the forthcoming term for just £99+vat – we will reimburse you if you’re less than very satisfied by the end of the year.
In this bulletin:
• Sexual assault testimonies
• Supervision Survey
• External Supervision
• NEW Supervision Training Dates
• The Longest Lockdown – Disabled Childrens Partnership
An open platform names and shames education institutions in Sexual Assault Testimonies
The following article sensitively highlights some of the risks online testimonies create for young people and those around them. We’ve then added below some advice senior leaders may wish to think about when concerns of sexual assault are linked to your setting.
Catherine Knibbs is a Polymath. Online Harms & Cybertrauma Advisor, Consultant, Author and Therapist. Epigenetic Psychotherapist. Clinical & PhD Researcher. Podcaster, Vlogger and Blogger (!). You can read more of the article as it is developed on Medium and more about Catherine on her website, http://www.catherineknibbs.co.uk
When you work in and around the Online world you can quickly become used to the way in which events around the world can be communicated and can see where people’s best intent lies. However, sometimes you know from experience and sitting with people in therapy why some of these communications, no matter how well-intended can be utilised by people and result in harm further down the timeline.
Since the death of a woman, by a man (I am not getting into a gender conversation here but clarifying the following before you read on) there has been a stir in the need to bring this conversation to the forefront, as did the murder of a man drive the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. A year of polarised stress, distress, anger and time that we began to have conversations that are uncomfortable and up until now fairly taboo, due to their polemic nature.
The current conversation about the murder of a woman has seemingly diverged into sexual violence against women and then evolved into sexual violence as a subject and topic. Now, I agree we certainly need spaces and places to talk and work through systemic issues that plague the human species. However, I am not so sure that the nervous systems of many of us are tailored to be in those spaces with the open posture to listen and learn.
Activism is becoming more than a political leaning; it feels like it is the far side of self-regulation. Peaceful protests are far from exactly that and we have seen much of this on social media over the last few years. People are hurt and people are angry and in feeling like this, people want justice and to be heard, seen and validated.
Enter the Anonymous platform to be heard.
In the public space.
Where anyone can visit.
And this one has been specifically aimed at young people and adolescents. You can read about someone’s experience (in detail) about their sexual assault or abuse, especially if you are a child or adolescent.
Firstly we DO need to have these conversations and yes young people may not even know something is sexual abuse and or assault if they never learn about it from a legal and moral perspective. I don’t think this is necessarily the way, by the way, this issue has been approached by a website (I will not name for the purposes below).
We need regulated, contained and safe spaces to have these conversations.
Not the internet, unbound, unregulated and a free for all.
So what’s the issue?
The accounts may well be traumatic to read, well I can tell you that it is very likely for those with empathy, sympathy, compassion and the same kinds of experience themselves. Reading someone else’s trauma can be just as traumatic for the reader (because we have brains: learn more about this from my website and training)
But the significant issue is schools, colleges and universities are being named directly. This is not okay in terms of other children now potentially believing they cannot approach staff/safeguarding staff at named schools. Schools may have actioned the event and this may have already been dealt with (legally), this may now evoke a second trauma for the survivors, the staff involved and may end up with a wave of mistrust, vigilantisms and of course people may well be named, inferred or accused. This is also potentially a legal matter.
And finally, the site may be abused by people wanting to get a kick out of telling a graphic story.
People will be hurt and of course, I know that people have been hurt. This is not the way to work with this issue if you want to really support people through sexual assault, rape and child abuse.
What to do…
when concerns are raised about your setting
When information about your setting is published on a website there may be a sense of frustration, fear or unfairness. It is worth pausing for a moment and recognising that someone has felt the need to communicate in this way and that there may be real and deep felt issues for them. Once you have had this space to reflect, take an objective and analytic approach to how to respond:
1. Take the account seriously, make a record and share it with your head teacher or principal as there is the potential for a community reaction. Consider whether media or legal action may be taken and seek advice accordingly.
2. Identify whether this is previously known information or whether there is anything new. Record your analysis. For any new information, follow your child protection procedure and managing allegations procedures.
o For child on child abuse consider the allegation in line with the definitions within Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges. Determine the appropriate level of response.
o For allegations about staff consider the criteria for a LADO referral in Part 4 of Keeping Children Safe in Education.
3. On some sites the allegations are published anonymously and anonymised. Consider whether you have sufficient information to identify an individual, cross referencing with other information you or other agencies hold. Where the allegation is about unidentified staff you should still follow the procedure and refer to LADO as it highlights potential risks for the local authority and other agencies to be aware of in your setting and may link up with information held elsewhere.
4. If identifiable consider how you may advise those involved about the publication in line with the procedures and whether the publication may increase risks to alleged victims or perpetrators. Plan to mitigate these risks.
5. It may be possible for the local community to identify individuals. Publication of material that is likely lead to the identification of a teacher subject to an allegation is prohibited by s141F of The Education Act 2002. Keeping Children Safe in Education places your setting under a duty to make every effort to guard against unwanted publicity for the teacher concerned. In this situation you will want to gain legal advice and approach the publisher to stop and desist from publishing identifiable information.
6. Whether or not it is not possible to identify an individual at risk or who may pose a risk consider what learning there may be from the allegation about your setting. Ensure you have some way of recording such incidents, risks and action plans, even where there is no named individual. Think about how your setting is directly addressing the issues of child on child abuse and abuse by people in positions of trust. Our members training materials really help raise staff awareness. You will want to consider how you achieve this in your setting, especially if a concern has been raised but not fully understood.
7. Avoid publicising or drawing attention to the website in question in line with the DfE guidance Harmful online challenges and online hoaxes. This advises against referring to such websites in newsletters, bulletins and similar as these perversely drive traffic to these sites. Instead devise a focused approach that follows your procedures and provides support to particular individuals or groups.
If you’re looking for advice and help we provide free, initial safeguarding advice to our member schools. Do get in touch for details.
External Supervision Survey
We are exploring the use of supervision in education settings ahead of the implementation of Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021. We would like to know, particularly from those in a DSL role whether you receive any of the following within your setting. We’ll feed the results back in the next bulletin. Please click below:
1. Internal Supervision
2. External Supervision
3. No Supervision
External Supervision for DSL’s
Safeguarding Network staff have huge experience in supervision and are regularly commissioned by organisations (including a contract from a Safeguarding Children Partnership) to deliver Safeguarding Supervision training to staff.
It’s essential that staff are properly supported with their work. Supervision ensures work with young people is effective, safe and follows procedures. It helps staff manage the complicated feelings that arise and sometimes distort the way in which we respond to incidents and concerns
Our supervisor will ensure there is an analytic, risk mitigated approach to case analysis ensuring the setting has a clear approach on the more complex cases and support your teams in discussions with other agencies. You can find more information on our approach and resources to support your setting on our supervision page.
The lockdowns have had an impact on many people, however there has been a devastating impact on the support services for disabled children & their families.
The Disabled Children’s Partnership asked their Parent Panel how this and previous lockdowns have impacted them. The general consensus was that there is a detrimental impact on their children’s disabilities during this time of reduced support from the pandemic.
You can read the report of what parents said and the actions needed, here.
We are currently taking a break from our DSL Forum & will be talking to members about what you find most useful. Our 16+ DSL Forum will still be running, details are listed below.