Schools are reporting a variety of experiences with Ofsted's new approach to safeguarding and different conclusions are being drawn as to what is expected. Tim Scott explains what impressed inspectors at his school and how the protocols and other measures were arrived at.
We were one of the first schools to be inspected under the new Ofsted inspection regime, under which safeguarding is now one of the three 'limiting judgments', and we knew from both the latest guidance, grapevine reports and local authority advice to expect safeguarding to be the subject of special treatment this time round.
We were not expecting however, that as a result of the new regime, our team of two inspectors would be three, this extra resource was just for safeguarding - and he would be staying for a day and a half.
Furthermore, we were told, as the team's first priority, the inspector would want to talk with the keeper of the school's single central register (SCR) on arrival. His task was to inspect the register, practices and procedures for looked-after students and special needs support and therefore evaluate the degree of child protection.
Happily, the school received an outstanding for the overall inspection, and at the feedback, the school's procedures and the maintenance of our SCR were described as exemplary.
Contact with students
During the previous two years safeguarding was discussed many times at the Secondary School Business Managers meeting - a self-established group which meets half-termly to share good practice. We often invited particular LA officers and others from whom we could learn or lobby. Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks - which the LA undertakes on our behalf - and safeguarding became standing items.
Through discussion we realised that, in spite of the 2007 safeguarding guidance, we all operated in different ways. We had different systems and different attitudes towards visitors with different shades of concern according to how much contact they had with the students.
As we were also the group dealing with contractors, contracted staff, cover staff, health and safety and risk assessment, we certainly felt the burden of some of the apparent inconsistencies in the legislation - particularly with regard to extended schools and provision of services by third parties. Through these meetings and constant review over the preceding two years we arrived at the system which was in place when Ofsted visited. It will need further review as we head towards the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) requirements.
There were a number of key points that impressed the inspectors.
First, we have a written safeguarding statement (one side of A4) saying what we do and why we do it. We also demonstrated that all visitors, PGCE students, service providers, contracted staff (caterers, cleaners, supply teachers) and key contractors are included on our SCR. Their names and their CRB details are entered, though not necessarily all of the fields are filled in. We would not ask to see their passport or get their NI number, for example, as these issues only relate to people we have to employ through payroll.
The register also includes all visitors from the local authority. Their CRB details are obtained from the LA and they are not allowed in school otherwise.
Each of these categories is given a code and the information is held in Excel with a filter on each column so that, at any time, a list of a particular type may be made. This overcomes the need to have one register serving many needs.
A full SCR entry for an employed member of staff follows the 2007 guidance but we also include:
nationality from passport (with visa information if anything other than British)
National Insurance number (further confirmation of the right to work in the UK)
type of Initial Teacher Training
teacher registration number
application form number with tracking notes if a CRB application is in process.
Using the filter facility of Excel on each of the columns we were quickly able to check (and impress the inspector) that all of the necessary boxes were filled and that we had had an eye on how long CRBs had been in place.
The school has a formal reception procedure for all visitors. This includes signing in, obtaining a visitor's lanyard and badge and, where necessary, holding a meeting to establish SCR requirements.
All staff and students wear a lanyard and identity pass and all are regularly instructed to stop and question anyone they see around the school not displaying the relevant pass and lanyard. The lanyards are different colours for staff, students, supply teachers/PGCE students and visitors/contractors. Parents are also signed in and given badges unless it is a parents' meeting and normal school is no longer in session.
While this was all strange when first introduced it has become the norm and students and staff understand why it is important to have these procedures. It also encourages staff to discuss visitors' requirements with me in advance. Because of the logistics of our school site, we have installed CCTV and access control. A person is on duty at the gate at times when the gate is open for students and staff to arrive and leave. The inspectors were party to this on arrival.
As business manager, I oversee all of the recruitment administration so it is not possible for staff to be appointed and put on the payroll unless all of the relevant checks are in place. I am also an adviser to the governing body and its committees, ensuring the appropriate safeguarding procedures apply to all aspects of the school.
The headteacher and I discuss all convictions cited in CRB reports and a confidential record is kept of all such discussions. A designated child protection officer maintains records of all looked-after children, the school's child protection register, and details of the support in place for vulnerable students. The school's intervention and tracking systems can be used to show the additional support such students receive and that, too, was evaluated by the inspector.
The school has appointed a head of extended school who takes on all of the defined safeguarding responsibility when the normal school procedures are not operating (such as Saturdays and holidays).
Finally, the school regularly researches stakeholder views, which includes students, parents and staff. We do an annual questionnaire on staff, students, parents and governors and peace of mind about security and child protection always come high on the list of the things important to each group. We also score highly on what they think of the systems that we have in place. In this way the stakeholders have a greater ownership of our systems and are more likely to support the measures in place.
Tim Scott is business manager at Fulham Cross Girls' School and Languages College, London.
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