Protecting children from abuse in schools: roles and responsibilities

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

Watch our animation for tips on responding to a child’s disclosure

 

> Watch the Welsh version on YouTube

Nominated child protection lead

Nominated child protection lead

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).

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

They should meet regularly with the head and governors, working together to ensure child protection is being managed appropriately across the school. 

The nominated child protection lead 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
  • provide the head and governors with an annual report on child protection.

> See our advanced child protection training courses for schools

Responding to concerns about abuse

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

> Find out more about responding to disclosures of 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 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

It’s best practice to identify a governor who will be responsible for safeguarding. But the whole governing body is responsible for ensuring the school fulfils its safeguarding duties.

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.

They should meet regularly with the nominated child protection lead to ensure child protection risks are being appropriately recognised and responded to.

The head and governors should also:

  • ensure the school site is safe and secure
  • read and understand national and local 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
  • ensure healthy relationships are promoted 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
  • make sure sources of help such as Childline are promoted 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.

They should ensure the appropriate checks have been carried out on staff and volunteers and make sure the school’s records are up-to-date.

> 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 ensure they and their deputies have sufficient time and resources to carry out their role. The head and governors should 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.

If there are allegations of or concerns about abuse by a member of school staff or a volunteer, the head and governors should liaise with the local authority as appropriate.

Reporting

The nominated child protection lead should provide the head and governors with an annual report on child protection. This should be used as a basis for the governing body’s annual report to the local authority.

> Our online training course for school governors will help you understand what needs to be included in the annual report

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