This is the first issue of a new series of e-bulletins on child protection. They are designed to be practical and accessible and to help you in your role of designated person for child protection within school

There has never been a greater need for training in child protection. With Lord Laming’s report The Protection of Children in England (2009) came a heightened awareness of the importance of ensuring that staff in all areas of children’s services know how to recognise abuse and what to do when it happens.

As designated person, you need to have training in child protection at least every two years. But you will not always be the person receiving the disclosure or in a position to spot the signs of abuse. Because of this it is very important that all staff in the school receiving training every three years as a minimum.

Although there are different levels of training needed depending on the level of responsibility, basic training should include:

  • recognising and responding to safeguarding and child protection concerns
  • working with other agencies
  • understanding the school’s child protection policy and procedures.

This training should include spending time with staff looking at case studies and discussing what the appropriate response would be to various scenarios. Your staff need to feel confident about raising and discussing their concerns. They should be clear about the procedures to follow whilst also being aware that they have the right to bypass the designated person if they feel that insufficient action has been taken.

So how do you go about ensuring that staff are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to keep pupils safe?

Start with the audit
An audit is always a good place to start. You need to check on:

  • what training members of staff have received
  • the content of any training and when it took place
  • what areas they feel confident in
  • where they have gaps in their knowledge.

You should check staff training records, as well as discussing with members of staff the content and quality of training received.

It is important that all members of staff are included in this training trawl. Mid-day supervisors are often in a particularly good position to spot signs of abuse and need to have the skills and knowledge to do this. They may also have time to chat with pupils who do not normally have a chance to build up such friendly relationships with teaching members of staff.

You might want to give more structure to your questions about areas of strength and weakness. Some members of staff might simply not know what they should know! For example, you might include a table such as this:

  Strongly agree Agree Digagree Strongly disagree
I know how to recognise signs of abuse        
I know what to do in the event of a child making a disclosure        
I know what to do if I am worried about a child        
I know what school procedures and policies include        
I know what my role is in relation to child protection        
I know how to check on the progress of a referral        
I understand the role of other agencies        

This will give you much more detailed information on which to base future training.

What next
Once you have a clear view of the existing knowledge base of the staff, you need to discuss this as a school leadership team and identify when, where and how the necessary training might take place. The questions you might want to consider include:

  • Does any member of staff need a basic training update urgently?
  • Is this an urgent whole-staff training need?
  • Are there particular groups who need more urgent training than others?
  • Are there particular areas of knowledge in which staff generally feel less confident?
  • How much time does the type of training needed require?
  • How might staff access the necessary training?

If you are new to a school or the role, you might find that an urgent whole-school blitz is needed. This could be school-wide training involving all staff and using an INSET day. In this case it is worth asking your local authority to lead the training. With the right deliverer it will not only be informative, but is also an opportunity for the whole-school staff to get together. You might also want to invite your governor with responsibility for child protection/ safeguarding to this event.

It is beneficial to share the outcomes of your audit with the governors. They need to know the current level of knowledge/training at which staff are operating and any budget considerations there might be. For example, if you have identified your mid-day supervisors as needing additional training it is probable that they will need paying for additional time spent in school to receive it.

You will need to prioritise training needs. The table below is a worked example of how you might do this.

Level of priority Area of need Who How/when
1 Basic training on all aspects of child protection

Mid-day supervisors

Staff new to the school

March INSET day, to be delivered by LA
2 Understanding school policy and procedures Teaching Assistants Afternoon session, during March INSET day, to be delivered by deputy headteacher
3 Safeguarding and disabled children Designated person Day’s training run by LA

After the training
It is important that any child protection training provided is recorded against the names of the members of staff who attended. This will also help keep your audit up to date. Depending on the provider and venue for the training you might want to collect feedback and/or copies of evaluation sheets. This will help you make decisions for any training in the future.

It is also useful if you can find the time to meet with any staff who have had external training to discuss course content and to check whether further dissemination might be appropriate. Legislation, advice and guidance can change so frequently in this area that you should use every opportunity to keep yourself and other members of staff updated.

Where you have received new training it might be necessary to adapt school policies and procedures to reflect new guidance. It is important that school documents are evident in school practice.

It’s a whole-school issue
Perhaps what is most vital is that child protection is seen as a whole-school issue. Every member of staff must recognise it as a priority and be clear about their role in ensuring that your school is providing the care and support pupils need.

Further information

  • The Protection of Children in England, 2009

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 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.