Safeguarding is Everyone's Responsibility: Creating a Culture of Vigilance

Safeguarding is Everyone's Responsibility: Creating a Culture of Vigilance

Posted  2nd December 2021

This blog is based on Judicium’s Safeguarding ‘Sofa Session’ from the 1st of December, with our resident expert Hannah Glossop. This session focused on defining a culture of vigilance, the impact a strong culture of vigilance makes, and practical steps to take to create a culture of vigilance for all staff, governors and volunteers.

Defining a Culture of Vigilance 

Whenever the focus is safeguarding, it is a good idea to start with KCSIE. It’s always our first port of call when navigating the intricacies of safeguarding. And KCSIE states that safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children and their families has a role to play.
While the old approach was much more reactive in nature, today’s standards require schools to be proactive

    A Whole-School Approach

    The enhanced definition of safeguarding is “taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.” To succeed, an entire safeguarding culture must disseminate throughout school. This is partly because no single practitioner can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances. If children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action.

    All staff should be aware of systems within their school or college which support safeguarding. These should be explained to them as part of staff induction.

    But staff should receive ongoing training regarding safeguarding. Part Three of KCSIE, sub section 4 explains the importance of safeguarding vigilance beyond the recruitment process.

    We can’t stress enough how important a whole-school approach to safeguarding is, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Ofsted states:
    “There is a whole-institution approach to safeguarding. This means ensuring that safeguarding and child protection are at the forefront of, and underpin all relevant aspects of, process and policy development. Ultimately, all systems, processes and policies should operate with the best interests of children and learners at their core.”

    Key Elements to a Culture of Vigilance

    • In effect, all adults (staff, governors and volunteers) should have safeguarding at the forefront each day and have the tools and confidence to support all young people.

    •  A culture where everyone feels empowered to take action, including when another adult or someone in leadership is presenting a risk to children.

    • A culture of respectful challenge for instance, when a referrer follows up if communication is missing. Or, if a governor is unsure whether harmful sexual behaviours has been covered, they ask for proof. Staying silent could potentially harm young people.

    • A culture where young people feel empowered to support the safeguarding of others e.g. stopping bullying or sexually harassing others and students are confident to pass on their concerns to staff.

    NB: Safeguarding goes far beyond the DSL and Headteacher. It is always good to ask if your DSL was absent for a few days, how effectively would safeguarding run at your school?

    The Impact a Strong Culture of Vigilance Makes

    Sometimes the best way to see the effect a great safeguarding culture creates is to look at the alternative. What happens when these practices and culture are not in place?

    KCSIE includes the following examples of “poor practice”:

    • Failing to act on and refer the early signs of abuse and neglect.
    • Poor record keeping.
    • Failing to listen to the views of the child.
    • Failing to re-assess concerns when situations do not improve.
    • Not sharing information.
    • Sharing information too slowly.
    • A lack of challenge to those who appear not to be taking action.

    The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel 2020 highlighted the key themes that may have made a difference in reducing serious harm and preventing child deaths caused by abuse or neglect:

    •  Critical thinking and challenge.
    •  Sharing information in a timely and appropriate way.

    Top 4 areas frequently noted in Ofsted reports where safeguarding has been found to be “ineffective”:

    • Record keeping.
    • Leadership e.g. allegations against adults are not taken seriously.
    • Following up on concerns.
    • Staff understanding.

    In contrast, the impact a culture of vigilance makes can significantly influence children’s lives for the better by reducing risk of harm, fostering more action when a child is in potential danger and decreasing risk from adults who potentially could cause children harm. It also empowers children to be active in the process and potentially change the system.


    Low level concerns:

    These can be seen as slightly controversial with some staff saying it is a way of “snitching”. Try and see it as an opportunity, rather than a threat. When implemented correctly, it should encourage an open and transparent culture; enable schools and colleges to identify concerning, problematic or inappropriate behaviour early; minimise the risk of abuse; and ensure that adults working in or on behalf of the school or college are clear about professional boundaries and act within these boundaries, and in accordance with the ethos and values of the institution.

    Also, without documenting low-level concerns, over time a series of small issues could become an important part of a larger framework of behaviour. This policy works hand-in-hand with HR, as without documentation of a history of these low-level concerns, you may be missing pieces to the puzzle when later faced with an employment issue or tribunal.

    Harmful Sexual Behaviours:

    Has become a big part of school policies now, with many staff having an awareness of the topic and schools actively promoting their school’s policy among the staff, children and parents. But do all adults play a role in vigilance around this?

    For example, what happens when a supply teacher overhears sexual harassment and tells the victim “Not to worry dear, boys will be boys”? How much would this undermine the work of the school to encourage students to come forward when seeing this kind of behaviour? How are young people encouraged to play a role in showing other students that this will not be tolerated if an adult has shown them it is acceptable?

    Is your school’s culture of vigilance strong enough that a student would assert that the behaviour does not align with the school’s policy? Empowering students and allowing them to have a voice to bring ideas and change is a great way to strengthen this culture.

    Practical Steps to Create a Culture of Vigilance for All Staff, Governors and Volunteers

    1. Evaluate: Where is your safeguarding culture at the moment? What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses? Are there members of staff who never refer? Have low level concerns been addressed?

    2. Reflect on safeguarding training: Is it little and often? What training do new staff get?

    3. Consider the adults that come on site the least: What training have they had?

    4. Check that staff truly understand your low-level concerns policy.

    5. Empower students: How can they help to tackle key issues such as Harmful Sexual Behaviours and racism?

    6. Look at the leadership structure of safeguarding: Is knowledge shared beyond your DSL? Would safeguarding still thrive if your DSL was absent or left?

    7. Spot check your safeguarding records: Could these be picked up by another person? Are actions/decisions clear?

    8. Review your safeguarding induction: What is included? How does this vary if someone starts throughout the year?

    9. Check staff understand key topics such as whistleblowing and what to do if they do not hear back from the safeguarding team.

    10. Celebrate and remember instances where the strong culture is evident such as a staff member challenging you professionally, a governor asking a tough question, or a student asking to lead a club on Harmful sexual behaviours.

    Helpful Links

    DfE KCSIE 2021:

    Judicium Education’s Safeguarding Service is intended to assist schools in meeting the statutory requirements and guidance for schools and colleges on safeguarding children and safer recruitment. For more information, please visit:

    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 0845 459 2130 or email

    If you’d like to review Judicium’s forthcoming sofa sessions please click here