Protecting children from abuse in schools: roles and responsibilities

Last updated: 15 May 2019
Introduction

Schools in the UK have a statutory responsibility to protect children from abuse. They play a very important role in keeping children and young people safe.

Schools should create a culture where:

  • children feel confident to speak out if they have a concern about their own or another child’s safety 
  • adults feel confident about how to respond.

We've put together an overview of the key child protection responsibilities in schools.

All staff and volunteers

Staff and volunteers

All staff and volunteers should read, understand and follow the school's child protection policy and procedures, which should include a definition of abuse and information about how to respond appropriately.

They should also complete child protection training to ensure they understand the different ways abuse can take place, the indicators of abuse and how to respond appropriately.

> See our range of child protection training courses for schools

Responding to concerns about abuse

If you work or volunteer in a school, make sure children know they can talk to you if they have a problem.

  • Listen to children's concerns and respond calmly and non-judgmentally.
  • Follow the school's child protection policy and procedures when you have concerns about a child.
  • Report your concerns to the nominated child protection lead as soon as possible.
  • Make clear records of concerns following the school's procedures.

You should never promise to keep what a child tells you a secret. Explain to the child that you need to tell someone else who can help.

> More information about recognising and responding to abuse

Nominated child protection lead

Nominated child protection lead

The nominated child protection lead should take lead responsibility for child protection in the school, in liaison with the head and governors.

They should also:

  • attend advanced training to enable them to respond effectively to safeguarding concerns
  • attend any inter-agency training on contextual safeguarding topics
  • read and understand the local and national guidance about abuse
  • raise awareness of all forms of abuse with staff and volunteers
  • support staff and volunteers who raise concerns about abuse.

> See our advanced child protection training courses for schools

If you're a nominated child protection lead, make sure children know they can talk to you if they have a problem.

This role has a number of different titles across the UK including:

  • designated safeguarding lead (England)
  • designated teacher for child protection (Northern Ireland)
  • child protection coordinator (Scotland)
  • designated senior person for child protection (Wales).

Responding to concerns about abuse

The nominated child protection lead should receive child protection concerns from other adults in the school. They should gather as much information as possible, assess the seriousness of concerns and decide what action to take in line with the school's child protection policy and national guidance. This includes sharing information with agencies such as the police or children's services as appropriate.

The nominated child protection lead should also:

  • keep clear and robust records about all reported child protection concerns and their impact on the child
  • attend any relevant inter-agency child protection meetings
  • involve parents and keep them informed throughout the process (unless doing so would put a child at further risk of harm)
  • make sure  the child understands what action is being taking and why.

> See our guidance on child protection records retention and storage

> Find out more about multi-agency working

The head and the governors

The head and governors

The head and the governors should make sure the school's child protection policy and procedures are robust, up to date and include:

  • a definition of all forms of abuse
  • information about the signs and indicators of abuse
  • what staff and volunteers should do if they have concerns about a child.

They should ensure all staff read, understand and follow the school's child protection policy and procedures and code of conduct for adults.

The head and governors should also:

  • ensure the school site is safe and secure
  • read and understand the national guidance about preventing and responding to abuse
  • ensure all staff and volunteers receive regular child protection training
  • put support systems in place for children who have experienced abuse, for example by arranging school counselling or contacting external support services
  • promote healthy relationships through the whole school ethos, lessons and assemblies
  • make sure children know they can approach any member of staff or volunteer if they have a problem and that they will be listened to and taken seriously
  • promote sources of help such as Childline around school so children know where to go to get help if they don’t feel able to talk to a trusted adult
  • provide parents with information about abuse including what action the school is taking to prevent it and support children affected by it.

> See our range of child protection training courses for school staff and volunteers

> Browse our teaching resources

> Find out more about responding to disclosures

Safer recruitment

When recruiting new staff and volunteers to work in school, the head and governors must follow safer recruitment principles.

> Find out more about safer recruitment

> Take our safer recruitment in education training course

Responding to concerns about abuse

The head and governors should support the nominated child protection lead with the child protection referral process and challenge decisions if the school believes a child is at serious risk of harm and not receiving appropriate help.

They should also:

  • help the nominated child protection lead inform parents about what's happening (unless there is reason to believe that doing so would put the child at further risk of harm)
  • review policies and procedures in the light of any lessons learned from a child protection incident.

Training

Our Child protection for school governors online training course ensures governors understand their safeguarding responsibilities and their role in creating a safer culture in school.

> Take our Child protection for school governors online course

Preventing abuse

Preventing abuse

It's important to teach children messages about staying safe from a young age so that they're confident in recognising and assessing risk and understand where to go to get help when they need it.

PANTS (The Underwear Rule)

Our PANTS resources for schools include lesson plans and teaching guidance to help younger children learn the Underwear Rule and understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch.

> Find out more about PANTS (the Underwear Rule)

Speak out Stay safe

Our Speak out Stay safe service provides schools with trained volunteers who deliver assemblies and lessons to children aged 5-11 about all forms of abuse.

> Find out more about Speak out Stay safe

Online safety

> See our E-safety for schools page

> Learn how to keep children safe online with our CPD-certified elearning training course

Making sense of relationships

We've produced a range of lesson plans for children aged 10-16 called Making sense of relationships which cover:

  • online safety
  • online friendships
  • consent
  • sexualised behaviour
  • unhealthy relationships
  • sharing sexual images.

> Find out more about making sense of relationships