Perhaps more than any other inspection judgement, ‘The effectiveness of safeguarding procedures’ has caused anxiety amongst schools. Here are some suggestions for how you might prepare.

There are two main causes of the anxiety caused by an impending Ofsted visit. Firstly the announcement that safeguarding is a ‘limiting’ judgement, which means that schools judged to be inadequate in this part of the inspection are also likely to be judged inadequate overall. Secondly, the number of stories surrounding schools’ experiences of early safeguarding inspections.

At one point the hearsay around safeguarding became so rife that an Ofsted newsletter challenged it head on with examples of issues raised by schools and their responses. Schools were told they would not automatically be placed in special measures for having a hole in a perimeter fence or because of an unauthorised adult entering the school premises. Instead it is pointed out that, ‘It is almost always the case that where safeguarding arrangements are inadequate there are also other, significant, weaknesses.’

The reassurance aside, safeguarding is still a top priority. It is inspected as early as possible during the inspection and schools report that it is the first issue that inspectors want to discuss. So what should schools do to prepare adequately for it?

You need to make sure that:

  • documents are in place
  • staff know what the documents say and implement them
  • pupils and parents are consulted and have confidence in the school’s procedures
  • pupils feel safe.

Essential to your preparation is the use of the Ofsted documents:
The Evaluation Schedule for Schools (April 2010) and Briefing for section 5 inspectors on safeguarding children (April 2010)

Documents
It comes as no surprise that documents are called for as part of this section of the inspection. The table (below) identifies the main documents schools are likely to be asked for and some further details and references. Other information may be requested by different inspection teams. For example, to demonstrate where safeguarding issues are being covered in the curriculum and about trips and visits planning. The direction of their enquiry will depend upon what inspectors have gleaned from the SEF and if parents have raised any issues with them.

Of all the documents causing concern the single central record is perhaps the most talked about. It’s important to remember that if there is a minor administrative mistake this can be adjusted during the course of the inspection.

Vulnerable pupils
During the inspection inspectors will ask for information about vulnerable pupils. How have they been identified and supported within the school? They are required to ask for at least one case study of a pupil where there have been child protection concerns. It is advisable for a school to have this information prepared prior to the inspection.

It might include:

  • the means used to identify the pupil
  • the standards the pupils is attaining
  • what strategies are being used to support the pupil
  • how actions taken have been monitored and their impact checked
  • how any conclusions from this have influenced overall school planning
  • how the school has worked with external agencies to secure the best support for the pupil.

Schools should select from a cross-section of pupils, including looked-after, pupils on the SEN register, a child with a statement of SEN, a child with behavioural difficulties – to show the range of support available. Some schools have selected a group case study to show how a group has been identified as being vulnerable and strategies implemented to support them.

Inspectors will also be checking on the provision that schools make from day six of an exclusion, how they monitor the quality of this and what impact it is having on behaviour. Inspectors will be particularly interested in children with a child protection plan and looked-after children. They will have picked this up from pre-inspection information and may well wish to explore the school’s arrangements further.

Document required Further details
Single central record Specific details about the content of the SCR and the implementation of the vetting and barring scheme are included in Briefing for section 5 inspectors on safeguarding children (April 2010).
Child protection policy Anti-bullying policy Health and safety policy

Behaviour policy

How can the effectiveness of policies be demonstrated?
A guide for making a judgement about the quality of the child protection policy is included in Briefing for section 5 inspectors on safeguarding children, Ofsted (April 2010).
Records of incidents of bullying Records of incidents of racismRecords of referrals

Accident/ incident log

Should include evidence of appropriate actions taken, monitoring and impact. Evaluating the quality of records is included in Briefing for section 5 inspectors on safeguarding children, Ofsted (April 2010).
Training record This should show clearly that:• The designated person has received training within the last two years• All staff have received training within the last three years

Information about what this training should include is found in Briefing for section 5 inspectors on safeguarding children, Ofsted (April 2010).

Information for parents Parents have to be informed about the child protection policy, behaviour policy and the school’s procedures for dealing with these. There should also be evidence somewhere in documentation that parents are informed that the school might contact social care in the case of a real concern about a child’s safety and wellbeing.
Risk assessments Should demonstrate that ongoing risk assessments are regularly checked for continued validity.

 
Implementation
Inspectors will not just be satisfied with inspecting documents. They will want to see them in practice. Schools can expect them to:

  • interview the designated senior member of staff for child protection (unless this is the headteacher)
  • ask specific questions of the headteacher as part of a general interview
  • ask a governor safeguarding questions
  • ask specific questions of staff as part of a more general discussion with them
  • ask pupils as part of a more general interview.

Possible questions for interviewing the headteacher, the designated member of staff and chair of governors/ safeguarding governors are included as annexes in the document Briefing for section 5 inspectors on safeguarding children (April 2010).

Schools should set aside time for a little reminder about:

  • training last received in child protection/ safeguarding
  • who the designated person is
  • any safeguarding issues the school may face
  • dealing with disclosure
  • types of abuse and the signs they should be alert to
  • procedures outlined in the child protection policy.

All staff should be reminded about what is their role in relation to safeguarding and the overall ethos of the school in maintaining the safety of its pupils.

Inspectors will talk to pupils. They want to know that they know how to keep themselves safe, but also if they feel safe in the school. Schools should consider whether pupils:

  • know how to keep themselves safe (including e-safety)
  • recognise what behaviour towards them is not acceptable
  • recognise when others are placing pressure upon them
  • have strategies to help them resist pressure
  • know when and where to get help.

This last bullet is particularly important for staff and pupils alike. Do they know who they can go to with a concern? Everyone should be aware of basic safeguarding arrangements around the school building, eg what the arrangements are for visitors signing in and what they should do if they see one without identification.

Governors need to be involved in the preparation process. In particular they should be aware of issues around safer recruitment and their role in the appointment process. Every selection panel should now include at least one person who has completed the safer recruitment training, available on the CWDC website.

No doubt there are myths surrounding safeguarding, but there is experience too. Schools should not underestimate this judgement.

References

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2010

About the author: Suzanne O’Connell has more than 25 years teaching experience, 11 years of which were as a junior school headteacher. She has a particular interest in special needs, child protection and extended services and is currently a writer, editor and trainer.

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