"How to sequence the Curriculum to optimise learning for all pupils"
This article will explore the importance of a well sequenced curriculum in Primary and Secondary schools in achieving positive outcomes for all pupils. Having worked in Inner City London schools for 15 years I have seen the impact well thought out curriculums have on ensuring that no pupil falls through the gaps and key skills are embedded and built upon. I have also seen the results when this does not happen, deep rooted misconceptions around key concepts hindering our most vulnerable pupils from succeeding. Since the release of the new Ofsted framework in 2019 educators in England have been talking about the 3 ‘1’s” – Intent, Implementation and Impact. The quality of education measure now used in inspections looks at how curriculum, teaching and assessment come together to set high expectations for all pupils and the broader curriculum offerings which are available for pupils.
"Developing a Coaching Lesson Feedback Model in your School"
We hear so much in schools about giving effective feedback and Hattie and Clarke’s research (2018) has proven that effective feedback is the most important factor impacting on student progress. Traditional lesson observation continues to be challenged as it provides only a snapshot of a teacher’s practice in the classroom. However, when lesson observations or visits feature within a more collaborative approach to feedback, development and learning, the highly nervewracking experience for the teacher can be replaced with a meaningful learning experience through effective feedback. This can therefore be a powerful tool for teachers’ and school leaders’ professional development. This paper explores how a coaching approach to giving feedback following lesson observations can support a deeper and more meaningful level of learning for both the observed and the observer. Chin’s work on ‘Collaborative Feedback’ (or ‘co-created feedback’) advocates the power of co-creating something between the people involved in the feedback conversation in order to ‘produce something even better’; as opposed to ‘simply throwing information or data at someone… (I call this ‘dump and run’)’ (Chin, 2019).
Lesson Study (Dudley, 2011) is a ‘Japanese model of teacher-led research in which a triad of teachers work together to target an identified area for development in their students’
learning’. Its key components are shown in the diagram below (Teacher Development Trust, 2020), and show a clear link between observation and a reflective planning process that includes collaborative feedback.
How Continious Professional Development can Boost Teacher Retention (Chartered College of Teaching Contribution
Top tips on evaluating teacher CPD in your school
One of the greatest influences on student outcomes is by improving both teaching and learning through effective teacher CPD. Yet few schools evaluate its impact adequately, or even at all. Unless you do so, it is difficult to know to what extent a CPD programme has benefited a school or offered value for money.
The following initial framework will help you go about evaluating CPD:
- Decide what you want from a CPD programme. If you don’t have set expectations for changing teacher behaviour or other headline objectives, you will never know how successful the programme has been.
- Determine the tools and criteria you will use to assess progress. These should measure the difference that the CPD programme makes to teacher practice and student outcomes, rather than just evaluate the CPD activity itself. You may be already collecting relevant metrics. If not, you will have to start from scratch.
- Employ a range of quantitative and qualitative measures, which could be collected by, for example, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, observations, feedback sheets and reflection logs. This will give you holistic view of any changes that are happening.
- Apply these tools over an extended period. Research shows that most CPD evaluations are based on participants’ reactions immediately or soon after the CPD programme is finished. As a result, assessment is generally brief, subjective and difficult to interpret. So don’t simply tack evaluation to the end of your CPD programme as an add-on.
- Make evaluation a positive experience. Unfortunately, all too often it is seen as highlighting failure and undesirable outcomes rather than a necessary requirement for ensuring improvement is appropriately targeted and on-going.
- Take CPD evaluation seriously. Don’t see it as some tickbox exercise to appease governors, inspectors and other external stakeholders. Properly embrace it as a means to develop pupil learning and the quality of teaching in your school.
- Don’t make CPD evaluation burdensome. With the right training, a practical and collaborative approach, and the use of appropriately rigorous tools, CPD evaluation can be surprisingly straightforward.
- Involve everyone who will participate in the evaluation process from the start. CPD evaluations should not be left solely to members of the senior team to impose on others.
CPD evaluation is an often neglected step because it is perceived as challenging. And yes, it does require longterm commitment and planning. However, to ensure that your school and its pupils gain maximum benefit from any professional development programme, assessment of training is not a nicety, but a necessity.
If you struggle to measure CPD effectively, seeking advice and guidance is imperative, because only then can you create the long-term training programmes that are so vital to your school’s development.
Costa Constantinou (BA, MA, PGCE)
Director of Educational Services
How getting professional development right can boost teacher retention
Effective teacher CPD improves teaching and learning and has one of the largest impact on student outcomes (Hargreaves, 1994 and Craft, 2000). This means that getting it right is crucial. But, when it comes to CPD, how do we know we are getting it right? It’s a topic I regularly raise in my initial consultation meetings with schools and other educational institutions and it’s often the case that the answer I get tallies with research that states that CPD evaluation is often a neglected step and that many school leaders struggle to carry out any sophisticated, in-depth analysis (Porritt, 2005 and Goodall et al., 2005). It is understandable as there is a reported lack of knowledge and experience needed to carry out such evaluation (Guskey, 2000 and Goodall et al., 2005). Furthermore a report by the Department for Education and Skills on ‘Evaluating the Impact of Continuing Professional Development’ (2005) found that only 24% of schools evaluate changes in pupil attitudes and a fewer than 10% of evaluation taking place rarely influenced the planning of any future CPD.
This worries me. It worries me in terms of ensuring that you get value for money from your training. It worries me in terms of planning using outcomes linked to CPD and, as a former school leader myself, it worries me in terms of ensuring the best education possible for learners. This is something I feel passionately about and why I believe seeking advice and guidance on how to measure CPD effectiveness is imperative. With that in mind, what follows are a few suggestions that can help to structure your thinking when considering how to evaluate your CPD.
The Purpose of evaluating the impact of CPD
One must consider from the outset not only the desired outcomes of CPD, but how these will be measured. What evidence will be obtained to determine and demonstrate that a positive difference is being made? Evaluation serves two purposes. Firstly, to identify whether the programme provides positive outcomes for a school (summative) and secondly, to identify how the programme itself can be further improved (formative). For me, building a long-term CPD programme is vital. It’s only when this is done that you can you accurately assess the gains, as well the next steps you can take.
Where to begin
Thomas Guskey’s five levels of professional development offer a template when thinking about CPD evaluation. These are as follows:
Level 1: Participants reaction
Will the information be useful? Did the material make sense? Was the leader knowledgeable and helpful?
Level 2: Participants learning
Did the learner obtain new knowledge and skills?
Level 3: Organisation, support and change
What was the impact on the organisation? What support was provided to initiate change(s).
Level 4: Participants use of the new knowledge and skills
How does the participant apply new knowledge and skills. How is this assessed?
Level 5: Student outcomes
What is the impact on learners? Achievement, confidence, attendance, behaviour, self-esteem.
Ask yourself whether the type of data you already use can fully answer the questions linked to each of the levels. If not, what changes can be made to make sure that they do? When consulting with schools, I’ve found this to be a useful activity to focus attention on a school’s current CPD programme and how evaluation can go towards improvement. For instance, research shows that the majority of CPD evaluations take place at Level 1 (participant reactions), straight or soon after the CPD programme has taken place. Although obtaining participants reactions is very important, only relying on Level 1 means that the evaluation is often brief, subjective and difficult to interpret. It is important to consider when planning your professional development how each level of evaluation can be put into practice, acted upon and the evidenced. Each level should build on what has come before.
Changing what evaluation means
Evaluation can often be a frightening prospect, however it should never be avoided due to fear of obtaining evidence that might show undesirable outcomes. Evaluations that focus on how teachers’ practice and embed new knowledge and learning from a professional development programme are invaluable for determining impact as well as the time and money spent. Furthermore, CPD evaluation should not be seen as a tick-box exercise for governors, inspectors or other external stakeholders. Investing in this process is about really wanting to improve pupil learning and the quality of teaching in your school.
Evaluating the Impact of CPD in your school
|When planning CPD, determine from the outset how you intend to evaluate its impact.||Do not just add evaluations practices at the end of your CPD programme or as an add-on. Determine from the start what children will learn differently as a result of the CPD activity.|
|Focus on measuring the difference it can make to teacher practice and student outcomes, rather than just the CPD activity itself.||participants perceptions — this could lead to bias and very subjective results.|
|When using Guskey’s five levels framework for evaluating professional development try starting with Level 5 first and working backwards.||Avoid focusing just on the professional development programme, the material and the training itself.|
|Use a range of quantitative and qualitative data — questionnaires, interviews, focus group meetings, observations, feedback sheets, reflection logs etc. Consider carefully the nature of questions, rigorous baseline.||Avoid making CPD evaluations burdensome. With the right training, a practical and collaborative approach with the use of rigorous tools this can become quite straightforward.|
|Involve all participants in the process of the evaluations from the start. CPD evaluations are not the only job of the senior team.||Do not begin any form of evaluation until you are clear on:
• The level of questions you will address (at each of Guskey’s levels).
• How the information will be gathered.
• What is measured.
• How this information then be will be used.
Despite its challenging nature, the long-term commitment and critical planning needed for evaluating the impact of CPD is critical if maximum gains for students are to be achieved — measuring the impact of training is an integral step on the journey towards ensuring the best training and the best outcomes.
Costa Constantinou (BA, MA, PGCE)
Director of Educational Services
- Craft, A. (2000). “Continuing Professional Development: A practical guide for teachers and schools”. London: Routledge Falmer.
- Edmonds, S. and Lee, B. (2001). “Teacher Feelings About Continuing Professional Development”. Education Journal, 61, 28–29.
- Goodall, J et al. (2005). “Evaluating the Impact of Continuing Professional Development (CPD)” Department for Education and Skills.
- Guskey, T.R. (2000). “Evaluating Professional Development”. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Corwin Press.
- Hargreaves, A. (1994). “Changing Teachers: Changing Times”. Toronto: OISE Press.
- Harris, A et al. (2006). “What Difference Does It Make? Evaluating The Impact of Continuing Professional Development In Schools”. Scottish Educational Review, University of Glasgow, Volume 37.
- Ofsted (2006). “The Logical Chain”.
- Porritt, V (2005). “London’s Learning, developing the leadership of CPD”. Department of Education and Skills.
The Logical Chain found that few schools evaluated the impact of CPD on teaching and learning.
Most evaluations seem to draw on the teacher, which can be superficial and lead to bias results.
Harris et al, 2006
The majority of CPD evaluations only look at participants’ reactions. Mostly widely used tool a survey and a questionnaire.
Research findings seem to suggest that schools need greater support and training in order to evaluate the impact of CPD.
Research findings suggest that schools need more support and training in evaluating the impact of CPD.
Only 24% of schools evaluate changes in pupil attitudes — making it the least frequently evaluated aspect.
Evidence suggests many schools still regard INSET days as the main form of teacher CPD.
Organisational change, value for money and changes in teacher behaviour were less likely to be evaluated.
Goodall et al, 2005
How getting professional development right can boost teacher retention
Teaching has always been demanding.
When I first entered the profession in 2002, I remember thinking that my own teachers surely couldn’t have worked this hard, or spent so long marking my tests. Clearly they had because I did quite well, and as we know, students don’t get good results without the hard work of effective, passionate teachers. Yet it’s this very workload that leads some 10% of teachers in the UK to leave the profession each year. In the last two years, 90% have thought about getting out, according to a survey of over 16,000 members of the National Union of Teachers’ (NUT).
Research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (Allen et al, 2016) also shows that around 40% of teachers leave the profession just five years after starting teacher training So, of the 40,000 trainee teachers who will enter the profession this year and next, more than 16,000 will have left by 2023.
The road to retention
It seems that far more teachers than ever before are choosing to say goodbye to classroom life and what would once have been a life-long career.
A 2016 report by the National College for Teaching and Leadership suggests that those in ethnic minorities are often the first to go. According to research by the Runnymede Trust for the NUT, that may be because they often feel they face ‘an invisible glass ceiling’ that stops them being considered for more senior staff jobs. Or, because through racial stereotyping they are given classes exhibiting the most challenging behaviour.
Of course, teaching isn’t for everyone and many graduates of all descriptions will naturally choose to explore alternative career paths.
However, we cannot hide from what such statistics tell us. Nor can we ignore the negative impact this has on the profession, or the barriers it creates to improving teaching standards in our schools.
So, what can we do to improve teacher retention?
Effective CPD works
For me, the answer lies in helping teachers acquire the knowledge and skills they need to become confident and reflective practitioners through better professional development.
Research by Ofsted and others has shown that effective CPD increases morale and enthusiasm for teaching by helping ensure staff feel valued and fulfilled on daily basis. They also become motivated by their own ongoing improvement, irrespective of their experience.
So, how can this be achieved?
- Encourage teachers to attend collaborative CPD events like TeachMeet, or the free events put on by ResearchEd as well as joining the Chartered College of Teaching and connecting with others in the profession through social media. These are all ways to boost morale, build supportive professional networks and stay better informed.
- Taking a bottom-up approach to professional development enables teachers need to get involved in planning the professional development offered within their schools. Engage teachers in talking about the professional development opportunities they would like to see on offer, and what will have the most impact on their practice.
- Provide teachers with regular weekly opportunities to engage in professional development. These learning experiences will be more meaningful if staff are given the chance to feedback and reflect on events they’ve attended.
- Ensure that professional development is informed by high quality educational research. If we want to grow great teachers who are expert classroom practitioners, we must ensure that what they do is evidence informed.
- Give teachers the time needed to implement and embed new knowledge, learning and skills. This doesn’t happen overnight.
- Move away from mock Ofsted lesson observations. These give little meaningful feedback and are often judgemental. Evidence also suggests that they do very little to improve the quality of education students receive.
- Make departmental and whole school meetings real opportunities for teachers to come together to learn, share successes, collaborate and reflect. Using meeting time to work through a tick-list of ‘to dos’ will not have a meaningful impact on pupils and staff.
- Introduce robust CPD evaluation. Knowing what works and what doesn’t is vital for ensuring our teachers have access to the right tools and latest thinking. The most effective teachers generate learning in their students at four times the rate of novice teachers (William, 2011). This means it’s imperative that more inexperienced staff are helped to bridge that gap as quickly as possible.
Review your CPD model
Creating a supportive environment is crucial in helping those in their first years of teaching to feel valued. So, when reviewing your CPD model, you need to think about how to develop a culture that helps retain teachers in your school.
A CPD programme that allows teachers to shadow and learn from colleagues, and where time is given over to regular dialogues about best practice and to coaching conversations on evidence-based approaches, will make a real difference to the well-being and longevity of teachers.
As school leaders, we all have a responsibility towards those new to the profession to provide professional development opportunities that actually help them improve.
If that’s not what’s happening, we need to make changes, because if we continue to get this wrong, our children’s learning will suffer, something that none of us want.
Costa Constantinou (BA, MA, PGCE)
Director of Educational Services
"Safeguarding Children in Education Updates
A new draft version of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) has been published. I have
summarised the key changes (set out in Annex H) below:
• Governance: Paragraphs 173-174 of the guidance now state:
» S128 checks should be carried out for governors of maintained schools to ensure they are not barred
» Associate governors do not need to have an enhanced DBS check
• Upskirting (Annex A, paragraph 27) is now listed as a form of peer-on-peer abuse and may constitute sexual harassment because it is a criminal offence.
• Serious Violence (new paragraphs 29-30). All staff need to know:
» Signs that indicate a child may be at risk from, or involved in, serious violent crimes
» Associated risks involved and measures in place to manage these.
» Multi-agency working (paragraphs 68-75). With regard to the phasing out of local safeguarding children boards and new arrangements being in place by the 29th September 2019, the guidance now sets clear expectations that schools’ senior leaders and designated safeguarding leads should be aware of and follow the new local arrangements set by safeguarding partnerships.
• Whistleblowing – the NSPCC helpline has been updated to 0800 028 0285
A Contextual Safeguarding Approach for International Schools
We are used to the visual focus of ‘safeguarding children in education’ being linked to possible risks within the child’s family. But this does not take into account ‘contextual safeguarding’, because considering risks within a child’s family is only part of the safeguarding picture, especially for older children.
The concept of contextual safeguarding takes into account influences from outside the family, the public environment in which children and young people spend their time, which are key to assessing risks for example, public settings such as parks, shopping centres, through to children and young people increasingly using the internet which can impact on their physical, emotional and mental well-being1. There is concern about the amount of phone usage and how phones and the internet monopolise the time of children and young people. As a generation growing up with the internet, it has always been present in their lives but the impact of less face to face social time, traditional family time, conversations and eye contact is the result of the time spent and lost staring at an app or a phone.
In particular, high level risks such as child sexual exploitation, should be robustly addressed while complementing any family intervention. In effect contextual safeguarding does not replace the assessment of family risks, but it provides a more holistic safeguarding assessment, which includes looking at children’s social or public environment (peer group, school, neighbourhood) which they frequent, as well as their family environment, leading to a more vigorous and all-inclusive response.
Schools may provide a protective factor, but research2 shows that pupils have experienced sexual harassment and peer-on-peer abuse in educational settings as well as organisational abuse.
In essence, contextual safeguarding provides a framework to address extra-familial risk, by recognising that:
- children are more likely to be influenced by their peers than by their families
- children encounter significant harm in a range of settings beyond their families
- there is a need for referrals to be made for contextual interventions that can complement work with families.
A contextual safeguarding assessment will consider risks from peer-on-peer abuse, a key topic in the latest Department of Education statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education, 2018. International schools overseas should use UK statutory guidance as a benchmark of best practice. A new section on sexual violence and sexual harassment between children and young people explains the complexity and difficulty of addressing such behaviour. It is important to remember that children displaying harmful, sexual behaviours have often experienced their own abuse and trauma. Nevertheless, bullying, physical abuse, sexual violence/harassment and cyberbullying are serious forms of peer on peer aggression, are unacceptable and must be taken seriously. Both victims, perpetrators and others affected by peer on peer abuse must be supported with clear processes and policies. Within the diverse cultures of international schools overseas, contextual safeguarding may be more prevalent. Peer-on-peer abuse or exploitation can undermine the capacity of parents to keep children safe and can fracture family relationships (Firmin, 2016). It can include physical abuse, sexting (or youth produced sexual imagery) and initiation/hazing type violence and rituals which can involve victims undergoing painful, humiliating or dangerous activities and can include sexual assaults and tortuous initiation practises. Peer-on-peer abuse in schools may also be an indicator where children go missing, or disengaging, from education.
Grooming is a significantly harmful activity where trust is built up over a period of time, trust that is carefully nurtured by perpetrators who use a variety of methods to befriend not just other children, but also parents and friends. This is the common the pre-cursor to child sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and harassment, but what can be done to prevent it?
What can you do?
Schools can work towards a contextual safeguarding approach3 through:
(a) Providing a safe environment:
Raising awareness of the issues of peer on peer abuse through Personal Social Health Education classes, the use of school assemblies and circle time to raise issues with children. In essence, affording children opportunities to consider potentially harmful views on sex, consent, gender and relationships with their peers which are the basis of some forms of peer-on-peer abuse; offering the services of a trained counsellor on the school site to encourage children to seek support regarding their worries and any mental health needs.
(b) Recognising incidents of peer on peer abuse and taking action:
In many cases staff may either not recognise peer-on-peer abuse or will not recognise the severity of what is reported to them. Better training to address signs and indicators is necessary for both; specifically, for the latter it is critical that action is taken when initial information sharing occurs, otherwise it will lower confidence in services and discourage future information sharing from both staff and children.
(c) Sharing information appropriately – supporting proactive rather than reactive responses to escalation risk.
This can be broken down into the following areas:
- Emails regarding peer-on-peer abuse directed to senior safeguarding officers, but also shared with all members of staff, so that the whole school is aware
- Information from parents and children to be recorded on a Safeguarding Awareness Map. This peer group mapping exercise can help staff see links between isolated incidents which in turn will help to identify children that might be vulnerable or at risk of offending or being victimised.
- Every term, children are asked to complete an antibullying survey, followed up with a robust analysis and response to the survey
- The designated safeguarding lead to collate safeguarding concerns on a cause for concern template, stored in a locked and secure cabinet
- Ensure there is a central confidential logging system, to include behaviour incident logs
(d) The school’s responses to abuse and discouraging a victim culture – what are the options for children to identify and disclose harm?
- Staff responses to reports of abuse can be counterproductive and can encourage a victim-blaming culture. Saying things like ‘she teases them’, ‘she’s a huge flirt’ or commenting on appearance, can transfer culpability onto victims and unintentionally normalise harmful attitudes and behaviours.
- How easy it is for children to disclose sexually harmful behaviours to school staff? Is there a named person (without a teaching timetable) who can be available for managing disclosures?
- It is essential that reassurance is given that disclosures are being taken seriously. Children who disclose must feel supported and kept safe.
(e) Effectively assessing and addressing incidents
- In some cases, it may be necessary to create an individual timetable for children who are involved in peer-on-peer abuse. While this may not address the cause of the behaviour, it allows some time where victims can safely come and go and provide respite while the abusive behaviour can be addressed by staff.
- Identifying and addressing the issues that are driving abusive behaviours with groups of children who engage in peer-on-peer abuse
- Using joined up working with experienced partner agencies, to support and challenge children exhibiting unsafe and unhealthy behaviours.
(f) Effective and good quality staff training
- Training should be regular (at least annually) and include issues relating to harmful sexual behaviour which should be informed by national and local evidence. Training should include specifically how to identify and respond to harmful, sexual behaviour. Face to face training is essential and conducive to effective learning, as opposed to just online training. The benefits of face to face training include the opportunity to network and learn from others, it provides engagement and focus for a more effective learning experience, it is adaptable to the learner’s needs (rather than set options), it provides human interaction, discussion and debate and an instructor on hand to answer your questions and queries.
- Both staff and children should receive training – see (a) above.
A ‘calm, considered and appropriate response’4 is advised. This type of response is not possible without proper planning, procedures and effective training. A robust policy on sexual violence, sexual harassment and effective staff training are key to pre-planning. Schools should not underestimate the importance too of staff being trained in managing disclosures, taking into account the child’s age, developmental stage, whether they are disabled or not and whether there is a power imbalance. It is likely that staff will be dealing with the beginnings of what could turn out to be a criminal investigation and therefore knowing what questions to ask, how to ask questions and ensuring the child’s wishes and feelings are constantly considered, are key to ensuring proper procedures are followed and to determining what action to take. No amount of preplanning can forewarn staff of what the disclosure might be and so each case should be decided individually, i.e. on a case-by-case basis.
The practise of engaging children and listening to their views can lead to greater awareness of and the prevention of harm5. For example, a group of year 6 girls in Derby were able to provide evidence to the police after watching ‘Alright Charlie’, a film depicting child grooming and sexual exploitation, which later led to the arrest and conviction of a perpetrator. Similarly, in North Lincolnshire, the safeguarding children board involved children producing a ‘positive steps’ leaflet promoting positive emotional wellbeing and mental health.
To demonstrate the importance they place on safeguarding, international schools overseas should ensure they follow UK statutory guidance which states that the designated safeguarding lead (and all deputies) must have a ‘complete safeguarding picture’6 with their job descriptions amended to reflect this update. Given the weight attributed to their role, it is the designated safeguarding lead (or a deputy) who should take a leading role and, working with other agencies, is positioned as the person with the most information and who can help clarify what is happening in a child’s life and use their professional judgement to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Although this does not seem any different to previous guidance, it has been afforded more clarity, emphasis and importance with this update.
Poor information sharing can directly impact on the safety of children, especially around all aspects of a child’s well-being, health and sexual health, particularly where staff may be reticent in sharing relevant information. A significant aspect of sharing information is to keep our focus on the child, rather than on what adults might think if the information was shared. The paramountcy principle7 advocated by the Children Act, remains critical in forming professional opinions about whether to share information or not and the newly published General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), human rights law and Data Protection Act 2018 are clear that the barriers to information sharing where there are safeguarding concerns have not been raised. What it does do is advise that they provide a framework to ensure personal information is shared appropriately. The recently published ‘Information Sharing – advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, parents and carers’ advises that ‘relevant personal information can be shared lawfully if it is to keep a child or individual at risk safe from neglect or physical, emotional or mental harm, or if it is protecting their physical, mental, or emotional well-being.’8 The advice should be considered by overseas staff as a benchmark of good practice and followed wherever possible.
Contextual safeguarding is essentially linked to significant harm beyond the boundaries of the home, where children spend increasing amounts of time away from their families in public places and/or in schools and are exposed to violence and abuse. There is a need for more meaningful staff training and guidance on how to identify and respond to peer-on-peer abuse. Robust recording and sharing information systems are essential to support designated safeguarding leads to have a complete safeguarding picture and to correlate and share information. The whole school community must be mindful about the role they play, to ensure the root causes of the abuse are addressed through supporting both victims and perpetrators.
Anastasia Soola Georgiou
Accredited Safeguarding Consultant
The Changing Face of Safeguarding
This year has again seen a wide variety of reports and case reviews published both in the UK and internationally all identifying the missed opportunities to keep children safe and therefore putting them at risk of abuse or neglect. The children’s commissioner (UK) issued a recent report (July 2017) stating that there are currently about 11 million children in the UK and of those approximately 36% (c4 million) are vulnerable. I would however argue that in our technology led world that all 11 million are vulnerable, as 95% of children now have home access to the internet and a third of 3-4 year olds regularly use it. Do we as adults really know how to keep them safe? Do we as adults put this high enough on our agenda in our ever-demanding world? Do we allocate enough time to ensuring that our children are taught how to take responsibility for keeping themselves safe? Do adults educate themselves to be able to educate the children?
What is “known”
Children are kept safe or put at risk through the action of other adults or children, but in over 90% of all child protection cases the perpetrator is a person that is known to the child, and this in today’s world is where the first of the difficulties arises. Is our definition of “known” a 21st century definition, or one based on our own personal 20th century experience? How many children have a ‘friend’ or follow a person or celebrity that they don’t physically know, but are making themselves known to, this changes significantly the concept of “known”. Just today in the news another case has gone to court where a 46-year-old male pretended to be a 14 year old boy. Friends made online may not be who they say they are and this becomes an increasing difficult concept for young children to understand. Have we as parents, carers and educators moved enough away from the notion of stranger danger to fully understand how to support our children to keep themselves safe. Children need to share in the responsibility to keep themselves safe as we are no longer simultaneously viewing the same material they are. And what about the providers? What is their responsibility? There was a significant time lapse between snap chat launching snap map and it hitting the news alerting parents and schools to the feature that had undoubtedly already allowed many children to be tracked and a picture built up of their daily movements. The digital economy act 2017 will lead to a code of practice for social media providers and their need to respond to in appropriate use of their services, but what about the here and now.
The landscape around safeguarding and child protection continually evolves as does the legislation and policy. We have seen this week the publication of new legal guidance to ensure that prosecutors treat online hate crimes with the same severity as they would those committed face to face. The terms grooming and child sexual exploitation although not new in practice become prevalent in UK legislation and policy from 2009. Peer on Peer abuse although not new has had its priority increased through the high-profile cases that have been reported with fatal consequences. In the NSPCC’s child bullying report 2016 Cyber bullying was at the top of all the concerns of parents, however in reality still accounts for significantly less instances of bullying than face to face bullying, the biggest difference however is that young people can’t leave it at the door. The reason often given for not reporting this early is the fear of the removal of their technology and therefore feeling punished. Group chat has become an increasing popular medium with many young people running several simultaneously thus creating another route to exposing children to the emotional vulnerability of feeling left out, and creating an unmet need.
Irrespective of your own technical skills; with neologisms like “sexting” appearing with increasing frequency it is impossible for most adults to keep pace with their children, creating an added area of concern for parents that they are far from familiar with. Children need support and guidance in how to remain positive with their online presence and how to keep themselves safe. Do we really allocate the correct proportion of curriculum time to educating our parents and children in how to do this in our digital age. How many of our stake holders know the law about sexting? How many young people know that by receiving an indecent image of another young person they are committing a sexual offence, that could potential place them at risk of prosecution. It takes a matter of minutes for an embarrassing moment to be shared round a school but these minutes can affect the life of a vulnerable young person.
Changing behaviours and habits
Children and young people love technology and Ofcom commissioned a three year tracking report from 2013 to 2015 that looked at the change in use and behavior of young people in relation to their media habits. It was clear that younger children see the internet as a form of entertainment, however as they grow older the social possibilities become key and the opportunities to build social capital are presented. Children in the 12-16 age group are possibly the most vulnerable; as they are in the transition from being a dependent child to being an independent adult. This progression is not linear and during this time the increased vulnerability is heightened by their exposure to change, change in school, change in family make up, change in friendship groups, change in support network and their own emerging sexuality. All young people are emotionally vulnerable by the nature of their place in this transitional phase. This vulnerability often highlights the key issue with any safeguarding situation exposing an unmet need. The report identified that Live streaming is highly appealing to children and young people as it presents the chance for them to be a creator, a presenter and to be seen by a potentially huge audience. Most young people are comfortable communicating and sharing online so it is understandable that they may use the internet to explore sex and relationships. This may be natural but there are some very real risks.
- Educate our children and young people, allocate a wider proportion of the curriculum time to exploring the impact and use of digital platforms.
- Educate our parents, provide a real parenting in the digital world programme.
- Educate our teachers, provide time for quality CPD focused on this need, not just ticking the safeguarding box of the annual update.