Challenges in School Safeguarding: Survey Reveals Key Concerns

School leaders and designated safeguarding leads see several key safeguarding areas as relatively ineffective and highly challenging according to a new survey.

The survey, carried out by Judicium with parent company Supporting Education Group, asked more than 620 designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) and SLT members in schools across England to rate the effectiveness of a range of key safeguarding activities.

Schools found that filtering and monitoring ICT usage, along with safeguarding training and updating safeguarding records to be areas of low effectiveness and high personal challenge.

Just 18% of all respondents said filtering and monitoring was as effective as it can be in their schools, with 59% claiming it is one of their biggest current challenges. These results were driven by DSLs - 65% rated it a big challenge, compared to 46% of SLTs.

Just a quarter (25%) of all respondents thought that their current safeguarding and child protection training works well and 43% said the activity is one of their biggest challenges. DSLs once again led these concerns - just 16% find this training works as well as it could, compared to 49% of SLT members.

Updating and reviewing safeguarding records to identify patterns of events or behaviour was another key pain point for effective safeguarding, with 30% finding this activity challenging.

Drafting and reviewing policies, and communicating with stakeholders, such as other professionals, parents, students and agencies, were rated as high effectiveness, low challenge activities.

The survey was carried out in June 2022 to better understand how schools think about and meet some of the challenges associated with safeguarding and to explore if any additional resources and support can be provided to help schools with this important area.

The findings follow analysis by Judicium which has revealed the important part safeguarding failures play in Ofsted category 4 inspection reports. Of the 130 inadequate judgements between 2019 and 2021, 59 (45%) cited safeguarding as ineffective. Record keeping, leadership, and governance, following-up concerns, staff training and pupil safety were most frequently cited in inspector feedback in these cases.

Helen King, a former DSL in a London secondary school and now head of safeguarding at Judicium, says: “We know from our safeguarding work with schools that the risks of getting safeguarding wrong are significant and can have a devastating impact on pupils. These findings will help to highlight key areas of concern for schools, service providers and policy makers.

“We also need to bear in mind that the DSL role is a high accountability job which has grown hugely in recent years - KCSIE has more than trebled in size over the past seven years, from 57 pages in 2015 to almost 180 today. That needs to be reflected in the understanding of the DSL remit and the support that is available to them if the role is to remain effective.”

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