Friday, 30 September 2011

Promoting safeguarding through teaching and learning


In outstanding schools, the curriculum is flexible, relevant and engages pupils’ interest. It is also used to promote safeguarding, not least through teaching pupils how to stay safe, how to keep themselves from harm and how to take responsibility for their own and others’ safety. Personal, social and health education (PSHE) plays a crucial part in teaching children and young people to recognise dangers and harmful situations and to know the preventative actions they can take to keep themselves safe. It can be a popular subject, seen as relevant to everyday life, with some aspects taught in specific sessions, such as sex and relationships education, and others taught across the curriculum. Effective PSHE programmes can also be tailored to local circumstances, for example where particular concerns in the neighbourhood have been identified.

Where safeguarding is given a high priority, however, senior managers ensure that it is a feature of all aspects of the curriculum, not just of PSHE. Teachers are expected to incorporate elements of safeguarding into their lesson objectives and schemes of work; consequently, safeguarding is seen as part of wider teaching and learning.

All schools in the survey were firm on internet safety, teaching pupils about the dangers to be aware of, including cyber bullying. However, school staff expressed concern about pupils’ access to potentially harmful websites outside the school, where they may not have the same levels of protection. They stressed how essential it is that while pupils are in school they learn how to protect themselves so that they can transfer this awareness to their families. Two schools said that they ran extra sessions for families on internet awareness, but these were not always well attended.

All of the schools in the survey monitored pupils’ use of the internet in school. The Vale of Evesham special school checked individual pupils very carefully and took steps to provide individual protection where it was needed; for example where monitoring showed an unwise interest in trying to access unsuitable websites. Pupils were taught the dangers of such behaviour and were required to sign contracts governing their use of the internet. Families were fully involved in this. The school had appointed a specialist technician with responsibility for this level of monitoring and protection of vulnerable young people who did not always recognise the dangers they placed themselves in.

A common feature in outstanding schools is the desire and success in including all pupils in all aspects of school life regardless of their needs and difficulties. Participation in the full curriculum is encouraged for all pupils, with steps taken where necessary to minimise the risks involved.
At Stratton Upper School and Community College, there was a working farm on site which students were involved in running. They learnt very practical work skills as well as care and empathy for the animals. The students were routinely taught how to keep themselves safe in this environment. For example, they learnt to move safely and work safely around the farm site. Older students clearly used the language of risk assessment: ‘in some situations we…’; ‘it is likely that we would have to…’

Many schools make a positive contribution to the local community; this is a two-way process that usually involves them in making very good use of the wider community and visiting speakers to bring relevance to learning and to enhance pupils’ understanding of safeguarding.

At Congleton High School, police and fire officers came into lessons to speak to students about dangers and how to protect themselves and others from harm. Other visiting speakers, facilitated by local churches, brought stories of immediate relevance to young people; for example, input from former drug addicts and people who had been homeless was reported as having a powerful effect on young people when considering the choices they could make and their consequences.

The outstanding schools visited, generally responded well to local circumstances by tailoring the curriculum to address issues affecting pupils. For example, at Stratton Upper School and Community College, police statistics showed high levels of illegal drinking among female students. The school took action to tackle this in the curriculum and practically, which included joint work to set up a diversionary group for girls on Friday nights.

 At Monton Green Primary School teachers had put safeguarding at the centre of their curriculum planning map, identifying opportunities to promote and develop awareness of safeguarding across all subjects. Other examples of adapting to local circumstances are given in the examples below.

At Turton High School Media Arts College, teachers routinely adapted their schemes of work and lesson planning to incorporate aspects of safeguarding wherever possible. This meant, for example, making clear the rules in potentially hazardous rooms, such as laboratories and workshops; in other lessons it could involve activities which encouraged students to relate to each other in a respectful manner, to cooperate and collaborate with others and to be aware of the impact of their own attitudes and behaviour on the safety and well-being of others.

The local authority ran ‘staying safe’ programmes to help pupils at Woodston Primary School to learn about road safety. Also, pupils in Years 5 and 6 took the ‘safety challenge’, in which they were presented with a series of scenarios – for example by the river, at home, or at the scene of a fire – and were asked to identify the risks and dangers in each of these circumstances.

Staff at Ely Pupil Referral Unit had a range of vocational qualifications, apart from teaching, that provided expertise in working in different subjects, such as car mechanics or catering. Detailed risk assessments were carried out for all curriculum areas and general guidance was available for students for situations such as holding tools correctly, using sharp objects safely, handling corrosive substances and safe storage of chemicals. In addition, students were given specific and personalised health and safety guidance in lessons. The curriculum prepared students well for risk beyond the classroom, for example when out on visits or work experience placements. This built their confidence and feeling of security.

Through the curriculum, pupils are taught the skills they will need for adult life. At Green Lane Community Special School, for example, the independent travel programme was a key element of the curriculum.

Pupils were taught in a structured and safe manner to travel within the local area using roads and public transport safely. They were taught the procedures to follow if things went wrong and this gave them confidence and helped them to be less reliant on others. Families were fully involved at all stages so that they were aware of the risks involved and the steps put in place to minimise them.

Two of the schools visited had successfully achieved the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools Award. This had a positive effect on their ethos and on pupils’ sense of ownership and responsibility for themselves, the environment and other people. They had successfully promoted empowerment of pupils and contributed exceptionally well to their safety.

The schools visited emphasised that safeguarding was as much about pupils’ emotional and mental well-being as it was about their physical well-being.

Turton High School and Media Arts College had taken additional steps to help students to recognise signs of mental or emotional stress and to seek support. Students had been involved in creating a website offering information and advice about mental health issues.

Attendance in these outstanding schools is carefully monitored, so that both the staff and parents know where the children and young people are at all times. All possible steps are taken to ensure that pupils attend school and unexplained or unauthorised absences are followed up speedily and rigorously. Such close attention to the issue of attendance contributes strongly to the creation of an environment in which pupils’ safety is paramount.

In outstanding schools, behaviour is invariably good or outstanding and this contributes significantly to pupils feeling safe. A culture of care is created where pupils are tolerant and respectful of each other and accept individual differences. There is a strong focus on developing social and emotional skills; as pupils mature they are able to reflect on their own and others’ rights and responsibilities. Children and young people have confidence in their schools and trust the adults who work with them. Staff are approachable and helpful. Pupils feel secure and well protected, a feature reflected in positive attitudes to their school. Positive relationships are evident throughout; staff and pupils feel safe.

Courteous and responsible behaviour is expected in all of the schools visited. Pupils are taught to behave in this way and are involved in drawing up codes of conduct. They understand and accept the consequences for any misdemeanours.

At Woodston Primary School, the pupils’ charter on rights and responsibilities encouraged responsibility and maturity not just in lessons but throughout the school day. The school’s anti-bullying policy was very easy to understand and provided clear messages about what constitutes bullying and what pupils could do to tackle it. The impact of this approach is seen in the rarity of incidents of bullying or inappropriate behaviour and fixed-term exclusions.

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