This is a really challenging time for everyone. With schools all over the UK closing due to coronavirus (COVID-19), we’ve received enquiries about safeguarding pupils. Safeguarding remains as important as ever, especially as the usual child protection systems are under increased pressure.
We are looking at how we can best support people working with children during this difficult time and we're in ongoing discussions with the government to ensure that all children are kept safe whether at school or in the community.
Schools are understandably worried about keeping children safe while teaching in an unusual setting and we're being asked a lot about remote teaching and online learning. So we’ve pulled together some resources to help. Other teachers and tutors who don’t normally work in schools should also find these resources useful.
Our resources are based on best practice, but we recognise that people are having to change the way they work very quickly. So we suggest you think about how you can apply these best practice principles in the most realistic way at this moment in time.
You might need to think about how you can build these safeguards into your new way of working over the next few weeks.
If you plan to record or livestream lessons via an online platform, you need to assess any risks and take appropriate actions to minimise harm.
Things to consider include:
Where is the recording taking place?
Teachers should be in a neutral area where nothing personal or inappropriate can be seen or heard in the background.
Which platform will you use?
Always make sure the platform you are using is suitable for the children’s age group. Set up school accounts for any online platforms you use (don’t use teachers’ personal accounts). Check the privacy settings.
Make sure parents, carers and children understand the benefits and risks of online lessons and get written consent for children to be involved.
Contacting children at home
While schools are closed staff might need to contact children individually, for example to give feedback on homework. Your school should set out clearly when it is and isn’t appropriate to contact children at home.
Remind staff of your code of conduct and make it clear how you expect them to behave.
Make sure staff know what safeguarding measures to take if they are having a one-to-one conversation with a child.
Use parents’ or carers’ email addresses or phone numbers to communicate with children, unless this poses a safeguarding risk. Use school accounts to communicate via email or online platforms, never teachers’ personal accounts.
Make sure any phone calls are made from a blocked number so teacher’s personal contact details are not visible.
If staff members are accessing families’ contact details at home, ensure they comply with the Data Protection Act 2018.
Child protection concerns
Remind all your staff of your safeguarding and child protection policy and procedures.
Check that everyone is able to contact your nominated child protection lead and deputy if they have any concerns about a child. This may be because:
- a staff member sees or hears something worrying during an online lesson
- a child discloses abuse during a phone call or via email.
Your nominated child protection lead should keep a note of any contact numbers they may need while the school is closed, for example children’s social care and the local police.
Children and young people are likely to spend more time online due to social distancing. Talk to them regularly about the benefits and risks of the online world and give them space to ask questions and talk about anything that worries them.
Mental health and wellbeing
Children and young people may be worried about the impact of coronavirus, social distancing or self-isolation. Those who already have mental health difficulties such as anxiety might be finding things particularly tough. Talk to them about what’s happening, check how they’re feeling and keep them as well informed as you can.
Tell children and young people where they can go if they are worried about anything or need to talk to someone while school is closed.
Childline provides a range of online tools that young people might find helpful:
- information about coronavirus
- Calm Zone – activities to help let go of stress
- games to help take your mind off things
- information and advice on a range of topics including feelings, relationships, family and schools
- peer support message boards
- Childline Kids, our website for under 12s.
Childline can also give confidential help and advice. Calls to 0800 1111 are free or children can get support online.