Safeguarding and children with SEND: What parents need to know

with the Safe Schools Alliance

Safeguarding and children with SEND: What parents need to know

"All organisations that work with or come into contact with children should have safeguarding policies and procedures to ensure that every child, regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation, has a right to equal protection from harm."


The new Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2019 came into force this September and is statutory guidance for schools and colleges on safeguarding children and safer recruitment.

Each school will have a Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL), and I  have held this position twice in my career in schools. You can find a full list of the DSL’s responsibilities on pages 19 and 92 to 95 in the KCSIE, 2019. If you have children in education, it's vital that you know who your DSL and deputy DSL is, so you can raise any safeguarding concerns you may have with them.

Today’s post is from the Safe School Alliance UK. The Safe Schools Alliance is a group of concerned parents, grandparents, teachers, governors, health professionals, education professionals, and carers from more than 30 local education authority areas in the UK. Their campaign focus is working with schools and educators to ensure that school policies meet the safeguarding needs of all students while taking into account the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010.

Their post is a joint effort from a paediatrician and safeguarding governor, chair of governors, and a teacher among others.

Safeguarding and Children with SEND: What parents need to know by the Safe Schools Alliance

How can I know my child is safe in school?  This is the question that most parents really want answering.  Parents don’t necessarily want to read long safeguarding policies, but they want to know that the people looking after their children at school will keep them from harm.     

The absolute priority for schools in achieving this is to ensure that robust and effective safeguarding procedures and policies are in place.  They must ensure that all staff follow the policies at all times and operate an ongoing culture of vigilance.

Ofsted inspections and what is expected of schools

Safeguarding is the first thing that will be looked at during an Ofsted inspection, and a school’s overall grade can only ever be as good as its safeguarding grade.  

The new Ofsted framework 1 that came into action in September, includes a 38-page document specifically on inspecting safeguarding 2.  There have been several incidents of ‘Outstanding’ rated schools being instantly downgraded to ‘Inadequate’ due to safeguarding failures.  This can happen, for example, if the ‘single central record’ which is used to monitor recruitment and vetting checks is found to be incomplete, or even non-existent.    

Governors and Senior Leadership Teams must be proactive and keep abreast of new safeguarding developments.  Chairs of Governors and Headteachers should be alert to the findings and recommendations of recent Serious Case Reviews.  They should then ensure that these are implemented swiftly in their settings.  

Safeguarding is one of those things that you can never know enough about, and all staff should receive regular training.  Everybody should remember the mantra, ‘You never know anyone well enough to say they couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t, and sadly that includes your colleagues.’  This is why robust systems are essential.

So what is safeguarding?

The 2018 guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (3) defines it as: 

  • protecting children from maltreatment
  • preventing impairment of children's health or development
  • ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

Safeguarding, in essence, is about protecting children, not from everything but from unnecessary risk and harm.  

Practical Safeguarding

All adults have a shared duty of care to all children.  It is essential that adults caring for children be alert to any signs that they may be at risk.  They must also be confident of the actions they must take when they have concerns.

Schools should have robust systems (many schools now use online systems such as CPOMS) where wellbeing issues, as well as safeguarding concerns, can be recorded for the benefit of the child. This is particularly important with SEN children who are especially vulnerable due to their specific needs and who may be non-verbal. This should lead to a picture being built up over time to enable the best support to be given to the child. This will also enable timely support and interventions to be provided to families.

SEND and Safeguarding

It is well known that SEND is a risk factor for abuse of varying types. There are a number of reasons for this including difficulties in communication, especially in non-verbal children.  We need therefore to be especially vigilant when caring for these children and be alert to changes in appearance and behaviour.  Relationship building with families is essential to this.

Children should be at the centre of all safeguarding measures and policies. Schools need to work together with parents, and everybody must take into account the child’s age, stage and level of understanding at all times.  For complex situations such as intimate care, Relationship and Sex Education, and Personal, Social and Health Education, each child needs an individual care plan that is regularly reviewed and agreed with the family.

Settings need to be alert to any materials or advice that contravene established safeguarding practices or are inappropriate for the individual child’s needs.  There is a danger that in an attempt to keep children safe we can end up giving them too much information, beyond their level of understanding, and putting too much onus on them to protect themselves.

According to the Ofsted Blog 4 “There is no magic formula: safeguarding children in schools is about fostering a culture where children come first.” Putting children first involves considering their long term future and outcomes not just their immediate situation.

How can I get involved as a parent?

  1. Get to know your child’s teacher and any other adults that work with your child.
  2. Volunteer in the school if you have the time.
  3. Ask questions, don’t just rely on a written policy – staff should be happy to discuss any queries and to explain their policies.
  4. If you have a concern or are uncomfortable about something, talk to senior staff.  They may be able to put your mind at rest.
  5. If your child is showing different or unusual behaviour, discuss it with the school.
  6. If you do not feel that your concern is being dealt with appropriately by the school, then you can contact the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). 
  7. If you have an immediate safeguarding concern about your child or any other child, take action immediately.  

In summary – if in doubt, speak out!

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Marguerite Haye

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