Keeping Safe in Schools

Safeguarding is in place to protect students in schools but it is also there to protect you. The best way to protect yourself against any allegations or difficult situations is to always keep familiar with the rules of staff conduct, physical intervention and incident reporting.

Mainstream schools
Younger students benefit from physical contact such as hand holding, an arm around the shoulder or a brief hug to help calm, reassure and comfort them. This is acceptable for students who are of a nurturing stage in their lives and it can be daunting leaving the comfort of their family to attend school. It’s all about common sense, positive interaction such as high fives, handshakes, pat on the back/head are all part and parcel of supporting kids in the early stages of their school lives. Physical contact should always be brief apart from the following situations when it may be required for longer:

Physical intervention/restraint: It may be required to help a staff member remove a disruptive student from the classroom or to stop them from destroying property, hurting themselves or those around them. Care should always be taken, preferably carried out by a staff member who is team teach trained or authorized by a senior member of staff to help.
First aid: It goes without saying that if you’re required to hold a compress on a wound or to help stabilize an injury a student has sustained then this is acceptable. Supporting students appropriately when ill or injured should not be questioned or frowned upon as it is necessary.

In secondary schools’ physical contact is usually only necessary when supporting in physical activities such as P.E or dance, and in the appropriate way. Physical intervention and first aid can also warrant physical contact. If you wish to reassure students or congratulate them then minimal contact is recommended such as high fives, handshakes or a pat on the back. Hugs can easily be misconstrued as inappropriate and are not recommended.

SEN Schools
This can be a minefield of worry for some staff as physical contact can be necessary and beneficial to certain student’s development. Students with physical and severe disabilities will almost constantly require physical support in activities throughout the day whether it be to help with exercises, feeding, personal care, toileting, play time or positive encouragement, praise and reassurance. Appropriate contact is completely acceptable when supporting students that require a nurture approach.

Hugs – side to side hugs are acceptable with arms around shoulders. It’s not advised to hug students front facing as some students can misconstrue this type of contact and this can cause distress for both parties.

Physical reassurance- It’s all about common sense with these things. Get to know the student. Some students with conditions, such as Autism for example, prefer not to be touched at all but sometimes a high five is a great boost to congratulate them for a task well done! Handshakes or a pat on the back for students who prefer minimal contact can also be effective but again it’s about reading and knowing what that student responds to. Younger ones or students with higher needs may require hand holding to help them cope and gain confidence in their activity. This is acceptable according to the students age and needs, some students may need explaining to them the types of contact that are appropriate and inappropriate.

When in doubt, ask first! – If you’re ever unsure about a certain students’ behavior or how you should approach a situation it’s always better to ask an experienced member of staff before diving in. Ask for the school policy on safeguarding and physical contact so you know the specific protocols that school has in place and that you’re correctly following their guidelines.

Physical intervention –
When a student may be having a ‘melt down’ or causing damage to property or other students it may be required to remove the student from the room or stop them from causing harm to themselves or others. Team teach techniques should only ever be applied by those who are team teach trained and certified. All de-escalation techniques should be applied before any physical intervention is required, this should only be applied if absolutely necessary. Again, always ask and check the schools’ policies regarding physical intervention so you are prepared for any occasion it may be needed.

Buddy up! – In most SEN schools the safeguarding rules are that no one should be alone with a student at any time, there should be a number of support staff and teachers to each class allowing 2:1 trips for toileting, time outs or personal care should it be necessary. If you find yourself in a room with students at any point, do not leave them alone but do stand in the doorway and ask any passing member of staff to accompany you until the teacher or support staff has returned. Alternatively, you can ask a responsible student (should the students be allowed to move about the school alone) to collect a member of staff from another class or call on the phones to ask for assistance. It’s always useful to check the protocol on this with staff and in the school policies.

What do I do if a student has acted inappropriately towards me?
Immediately tell the student to stop and that it is not an appropriate way to behave. Whether it’s a verbal action or physical, mainstream or SEN, it should be indicated to the student immediately that it is not okay to behave this way. If you are in a mainstream setting and/or are able to leave the students, then immediately excuse yourself from the class and seek out a senior member of staff to relay the situation to. They will more than likely ask you to write a statement but you should do this regardless. Once the school has been notified please notify JBD Education by text or email and if you are continuing your school day then we will call you after work to discuss the incident. All of these steps are in place for you to cover yourself.

What should I do if an allegation is made against me?
If there is an allegation made against you then the procedures are similar to above. You will be asked to leave the school immediately whilst an investigation is being carried out. Contact JBD education immediately and we will advise you to come to our office for a meeting where we can discuss the incident and you can write a statement. You will be unable to work through us whilst the investigation is taking place but once everything is reconciled and the school is happy that nothing inappropriate took place you will be able to return to work with us. JBD Education support their candidates throughout the investigation and will attend any meetings that are required.

Report and record
You might be unsure of what warrants a report in schools and think you’re blowing something out of proportion. You’re not. It is always better to be safe than sorry. If you think a student is acting maliciously or inappropriately towards you, report it. It may be nothing but your statement will exist to cover yourself in the future should something come from it. Keep a behaviour log. This helps if there is reoccurring bad or inappropriate behaviour towards you or anyone else as it builds a picture to senior staff what is happening with that student. Make copies, keep one for yourself and one for the teacher or senior member. Likewise, if you see or hear a member of staff acting inappropriately towards a student or colleague, report it immediately to a senior member of staff. There is no such thing as a whistle blower in education, schools should be a safe place for EVERYONE and relies on you to highlight any unacceptable behaviour.
Safeguarding can seem like a minefield to some staff but as long as you remain informed on the current protocols of the schools you are working in and follow the guidelines then you should have no issues. Schools are very supportive and will always be happy to answer any questions you may have, as are JBD!

When in doubt…ask
Stay informed of current safeguarding policies
Buddy up where applicable
Report and record any incidents, no matter how small they may seem

– Danni SEN Consultant