Safeguarding for all

Widening the base of safeguarding training in international schools 

Matt Harris Ed.D., Mike Pelletier and Angelica Nierras talk to ITM’s Andy Homden about providing effective safeguarding training for all members of an international school’s community

 The context 

Matt Harris Ed.DCountering possible child abuse by the provision of effective safeguarding training is a priority for all good schools, especially international schools with their fluid populations of teaching and support staffSingapore-based Matt Harris, former Whole School Deputy Head (Learning Technology) at the British School, Jakarta, is very aware of the problem: 

‘For a long time the issue escaped serious scrutiny, but the case of William Vahey and his decades-long child abuse in international schools was a tipping point in our industry. His acts were shocking, heinous, and something that had been happening right under our noses. The resultant work on creating Child Protection standards and training materials conducted by the international schools community has been a strong response, especially with the continued work of the International Task Force on Child Protection and the commitment shown to Child Protection by accrediting agencies such as COBIS and CIS. 

Unresolved issues

As many are only too fully aware, however, the training materials and evaluation structures that have come from this work, although often excellent, have not fully addressed the problem.  Harris again:

‘Most child protection training courses and materials are written for the teaching faculty and leadership in schools and assume a high level of contextual understanding and most are only available in English. Such materials – or face to face training days – are not accessible to a large portion of the adults that work in, volunteer, or visit international schools. Only when these adults are trained, in addition to the teachers and leaders, will the children be more fully protected’.

Most child protection training courses and materials are written for the teaching faculty and leadership in schools and assume a high level of contextual understanding and most are only available in English

A possible way forward? 

Harris is convinced that an e-learning approach to training can help contribute to the solution. The result has been a new platform – ChildSafeguarding.com which delivers a 60-90 minute universal baseline child protection course accessible to all adults, regardless of language, geography, or literacy level.

The plan is to launch in English, with versions in four major languages of Southeast Asia (Mandarin Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Melayu, Thai) shortly afterwards and additional languages to follow’.

Harris explains: 

The course has been built based on instructional design principles that focus on accessibility, utilizing engaging video, animations, interactions, and mother tongue captions to reinforce learning. The plan is to launch in English, with versions in four major languages of Southeast Asia (Mandarin Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Melayu, Thai) shortly afterwards and additional languages to follow’.

‘The target learners are all adults on campus not covered by standard child protection courses, including all non-teaching staff, such as cleaners, bus drivers, security guards, gardeners, maintenance workers and office staff, as well as outside contractors, long term visitors, and parent volunteers‘.  

 Why this in particular? 

Harris argues that effective child protection is a basic requirement for every institution. To fully meet that mandate, he argues it is imperative that schools recognize that every adult has a role to play in child protection.

Each member of the community must be trained on the same baseline, universal principles of identifying dangers and knowing how to report them.

‘When every person on campus understands their role in protecting children’ he argues, ‘every pair of adult eyes is looking for potential danger. This discourages abusers, both the calculating and the opportunistic’.

Validation 

It’s all very well coming up with a new e-learning ideaDoes it really meet the need? ChildSafeguarding.com Co-founder Mike Pelletier picks up the story: 

‘Once we came up with the idea and design for this course, we tested it with a host of people. We wrote a draft version of the script and filmed a Proof of Concept version of the course. We tested the course on a group of learners that matched the profile and shared it with experts from international schools, accrediting agencies, child protection organizations, government agencies, and law enforcement’

According to Pelletier, the results were resoundingly positivePerhaps not surprisingly, they found that schools and accrediting agencies had been grappling with this challenge for some time – and their prototype seemed to hit the mark. Pelletier again: 

The tests with learners showed that the course was effective not only in creating awareness about child protection knowledge, but also instilled a sense of responsibility and empowerment to report their observations when they saw or heard something concerning.’

Furthermore, the feedback the team received suggested that by providing this training in their mother tongue it showed the school valued all members of the community. 

 Course content and planned launch 

Chris Gould

The course has been developed in partnership with Chris Gould from 112 Safeguarding (http://112safeguarding.com), and  having received such positive feedback, Harris, Pelletier and their co-founder and COO, Angelica Nierras have pressed on to develop the on-line materials covering five key areas:

  • What is Child Abuse 
  • The Most Common Types of Abuse 
  • What Should Cause a Concern 
  • How Adults Should Act Around Children 
  • How to Report Your Concerns. 

All things being equal, this initiative looks as if it could be another significant step forward in the provision of effective safeguarding in international schools.

Angelica Nierras After speaking to an increasing number of schools and government agencies Harris, Pelletier and Nierrras, plan to release the course in March, 2020 with an ambitious long term goal for it to be available to any school worldwide in a wide range of languages. A percentage of proceeds will be donated to organizations that aid child abuse victims.

All things being equal, this initiative looks as if it could be another significant step forward in the provision of effective safeguarding in international schools.

 

Andy Homden of International Teacher Magazine was speaking to Matt Harris Ed.D., Mike Pelletier and Angelica Nierras of http://childsafeguarding.com.

If schools or individuals are interested in learning more, they can register their interest at http://childsafeguarding.com. Those who register will be kept informed about the course’s development and will be given access to an annotated portion of the script.  Alternatively,  simply email the team at info@childsafeguarding.com 

 

Feature Image: Bru-nO – Pixabay

Support Images: geralt & sl3p3r/ – Pixabay

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