Safeguarding: Supporting Students Post-lockdown
Safeguarding: Supporting Students Post-lockdown
The session was centred on top tips for supporting students post-lockdown, from a Safeguarding perspective.
The majority of schools have seen a big increase in referrals to the Safeguarding team since 8th March. Even though it goes without saying that the pandemic has had a massive impact on our communities, it’s important to recognise that pandemic has been a form of trauma for many of our students, their families and your staff. The National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has recently stated that calls to the help line have increased by 23% on previous years. Interestingly enough, 47% of the phone calls have led to a referral to social care or the police. This shows the high level of concern that the NSPCC have received in their calls throughout lockdown.
Tip 1: Encourage staff to be more vigilant
Create regular reminders for staff in combination with any CPD training planned and also remind staff of the referral process. Highlight key Safeguarding concerns that might be specific to your area, for example Criminal Exploitation, County Lines or even students getting pulled into gang activity. It is also important to remind your staff of which signs to be on the lookout for. Some signs might be quite simple to identify like physical abuse, signs of financial hardships or even a student that might not want to go home at the end of the day.
However, as online safety has become a massive concern with students spending more time online, it’s very important to ensure staff are checking as much as possible, what their students get up to online and report anything that does not look quite right. An example of this situation might be a teacher noticing a student hiding their screen and acting anxious about what they are doing online. There have been many young people throughout the course of the pandemic that have been radicalised online or been approached by gangs online. Thus, vigilance in this area is of key importance.
Another area that does not always get linked to Safeguarding is picking up certain patterns when it comes to attendance and punctuality of their students. For example, if you have the same student that goes home early every Tuesday, do you know what they are getting up to on those Tuesdays? It’s worth having a conversation to find out what’s going on.
Tip 2: Create a space for students to open up and connect
It’s important to have curriculum time not come to an end a few days in, as some students might need a lot longer to come to terms with their experience off the pandemic. It might benefit you to think of what time you can create over the next few weeks / months to revisit this important theme. Create opportunities for students to discuss their experiences of the pandemic. Examples can include:
- Friday registration of how Covid has impacted this generation
- Having students write a creative writing piece about COVID and the last 15 months
- Potentially students might want to open up about this on forums / debates
However, you might still find there are students that don’t want to open up, especially in a classroom environment. Think about whom these students can speak to on a personal level and also reminding
them of who they can go to. Also create a space where your students know they can go to if they are feeling unsettled, for example a teacher’s office during certain hours with some biscuits even.
Have specific focus of your list of vulnerable students and encourage the families to attend provisions and even do home-visits and one-on-one calls to help you stay on top of what is happening with those students now.
Tip 3: Help young people feel positive about the future
Think of ways to counteract all of the stories in the media about the “lost generation” and time lost in school time or even future earnings for these students. Focus on all the different skills students have developed over the last 15 months, for example now being able to use a video conferencing platforms like Zoom. Softer skills are also important such as resilience, new forms of communication and also reflecting on everything they have been able to learn that the previous generation weren’t able to.
Focus on career programs for young people and try to tailor it to negating the impact of the pandemic. Think about the speakers you can get in to talk about the amazing career opportunities out there. This is very important as there will be a lot of students thinking they might never be able to find a job and earn a good salary.
Tip 4: Explore specialist mental health and bereavement support
Some students will be suffering from complex trauma for example, blaming themselves for the death of a family member as they are worried that they might have passed on the virus, or who’s lost multiple family members or even a teacher or fellow student.
Consider what type of therapeutic support you have on offer for these students. You might already have a school counsellor or already buy into some kind of therapeutic service. It might be beneficial to it down with the person who oversees the service and think of how it can be changed now that the pandemic has hit.
For example, if you've got lots of students who are suffering with bereavement, then you might want your counsellor to run a specialist bereavement group. Or if you have lots of students who’ve gained a lot of weight during lock down and are really struggling with their body image, you might want to think about a positive body image, workshop being run by your school counsellor or equivalent.
Also have a look at what is on offer locally and outside your school. CAMS will be a good example of this. Have a look to see if there is anything that they are doing at the moment, even if it’s just a one-off parenting class to send your parents to. Also see what your LA is offering currently. Make sure you are signed up for the newsletters to stay up to date with any new programs or charities, or even networking groups with fellow DSL’s or Safeguarding governors. This will give you the opportunity to see what they are doing in their school as well. Learning from other professionals is a great way from tapping into specialist support.
Contact your local virtual school as they might have some excellent training on offer and have amazing resources for supporting children through trauma.
Tip 5: Work with 3rd party agencies
Ensure you make use of your local professional agencies and remind your staff to refer to Early Help as they have to provide preventative support for who may be on the edge of social care involvement. Staff should also continue to refer to children’s social care as this is your statutory duty as Safeguarding leaders.
The 2020 annual report from the Child Safeguarding Practice review panel identified 6 key practice themes that make a big difference – critical thinking and professional challenge was one of them. Professional challenge is key, especially in those situations where social care is closing cases a lot sooner than you think appropriate. It’s okay to challenge your team leaders and want to escalate the matter if you feel confident that further steps need to take place. It’s also just as important that fellow DSL’s / Safeguarding team challenge each other.
Put your own oxygen mask on first
It’s extremely important for the DSLs / safeguarding teams to take care of themselves first, in order for them to offer the best possible support to their students / other staff members. Be honest and speak up if you feel you are struggling to cope. This could be your Head, Deputy Head or even a fellow colleague.
Also think about sharing value and using more people by training them up and having them step in to support you if needed. There is no limit to the amount of Deputy DSL’s you can have as back-up.
Make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first – leave at a good time some days and take some time for yourself as you have a very difficult job. It’s much more challenging to help young people if you are not in a good place yourself.
*You can find more information about Judicium's Safeguarding service here.
If you require any support in any of these steps, or would like to talk to someone surrounding some support for your school please do not hesitate to call us on 0203 326 9174 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.