Establishing an effective safeguarding regime can be challenging even on one campus. Primary Principal Graeme Chisholm looks at how his school took on the task of coordinating a consistent programme across four sites in the Czech Republic.
Riverside School is positioned in and around Prague’s central, diplomatic and scenic neighbourhoods, while expanding to five buildings on four sites. The Child Protection Team is made up of a Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) at each site, an active Board Representative and myself as chair of the safeguarding committee.
My immersion into the intricacies of safeguarding started soon after joining Riverside, 17 years ago. Like most schools, we used a paper-based system. The quick and effective collation of concerns became more complicated as the school expanded to five buildings. What became clear was that a more effective system was needed to improve communication, record keeping and chronology.
So, in 2018 we researched online-based systems to ‘join up’ each school site. We were looking for a mechanism to share both safeguarding and welfare concerns. Paper systems often ask staff to differentiate concerns between ‘safeguarding’ or ‘welfare’. In developing criteria for such a distinction, we are in danger of missing vital information which, through the lens of a DSL, might provide a vital piece to a complex jigsaw. Developing a mechanism to chronologise all concerns ensures we can best react to and support our students. This is one of the main reasons we decided to integrate the MyConcern platform into our programme. It’s made a big difference: a paper-based system is acceptable as a very minimum, but it can be so time consuming and difficult to track the concerns registered. Good digital systems will ensure you are following the correct protocols to protect your students.
Other foundations of sound safeguarding
Whether a concern arises on a school trip or at another site we need to know that all staff and DSLs are fully briefed so it can be actioned immediately. It should be noted that the immediate response to a child protection matter is more important than any paper or online system, and our ability to react promptly is built on four other important foundations:
1. Using international safeguarding standards
Back in 2014, the International Task Force on Child Protection (ITFCP) was formed to review and assess current safeguarding practice and ensure safeguarding standards across all international schools. Two years on, in 2016, several regional accreditation agencies including the Council of International Schools (CIS), the International Baccalaureate (IB), the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) and the International Schools Inspectorate (ISI) joined the task force. In 2019, safeguarding aligned to the ISI and ITFCP, was added to the British Schools Overseas inspection process. Our safeguarding team benefit greatly from regularly reviewing our provision against the ITFCP essential questions and elements and these form the basis for an annual safeguarding development plan.
It’s not enough to simply invest in a safeguarding system; without full training it will not be used. You must ensure that every member of staff, including non-teaching staff are trained on the importance of using a system and know how to register a concern. Once trained, your staff will appreciate that there are many different types of concern; there is seldom, if ever just one affecting each child.
Inevitably, regulations change, teachers forget the necessary procedures and of course new staff join the school team. Organising repeat training for all staff each year and keeping staff up to date with any safeguarding advice regularly is important.
3. Act on all concerns
Staff should be encouraged to share concerns with a clear understanding of the process. Their first responsibility is to act on all concerns by registering the concern within the system the school is using. With a digital system like MyConcern, it is easy for staff to register their concern. They are not deterred by a burden of managing the case as the responsibility falls on the safeguarding team to decide on the next steps. A misunderstanding of process and fear of responsibility can limit the professional flow of information.
Effectively managed student welfare also encourages a flow of information from all staff so we can collate as much detail as possible. Each contribution may not suggest a child protection concern, but the chronology may highlight something far more worrying which in turn, requires a different response. Well-managed schools will proactively respond to any number of concerns about a student’s welfare.
4. Recognising it takes time
We are currently in our second year of using the MyConcern system and whilst we were up and running very quickly, we have only accessed a fraction of its capabilities. Once your system’s installed, staff trained, and you’ve spent time getting comfortable with it, it’s possible to explore data analysis of concerns which can identify themes within groups and cohorts. We know this will help us triage themes to incorporate into the curriculum or assemblies to better support our student’s welfare. We also know it will take time.
The bottom line
Our greatest responsibility to our students is their protection from harm. I am pleased with the recent changes to inspectorate and accreditation protocols to include safeguarding as an essential component of a school’s fabric. Every year, the UK statutory guidance on safeguarding children is updated, highlighting our need to review our provision regularly. With a good digital system now in pace, we are well positioned to keep on top of things.
Primary Principal, Riverside School
Riverside School, Prague uses MyConcern Safeguarding Software from One Team Logic.