Child Protection issues don’t happen in independent schools, do they? #safeguarding

img_2284This is one of those questions that drives me mad. I can understand some people who think this but recently I went to visit one of my local MASH ( I work on the cusp of three counties) to get an understanding of how it works and after introducing myself, the above statement was made. I was taken aback. I am guessing that she thinks that parents who pay for a child’s education would never abuse them. But if this group of experienced staff think this, then I am guessing everyone else thinks the same.

Ok, maybe there are some issues that an Independent school would not have to worry too much about. However there aren’t many. In fact the only course from a safeguarding point of view, that I thought “this will never be an issue for my school” was a one hour inset looking at children traveller and how to manage their education.  I can understand that the numbers of cases are very different, but to presume that there are no safeguarding issues  at Independent schools is in my eyes, dangerous. Some would argue that more abuse stories have appeared in the press from Independent schools than State schools.

Abusive behaviour doesn’t discriminate, it may wear a different disguise, in fact, abuse is a master of disguise and is an excellent actor. Its needs this when it  fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child. ” It can manipulate children, families and colleagues, even though everyone is aware “it could happen here’ where safeguarding is concerned.” Some abusive behaviour knows how to manipulate the system because they are the system.Where a staff member feels unable to raise the issue with their employer or feels that their genuine concerns are not being addressed, other whistleblowing channels may be open to them.”

Abusive behaviour often justifies comments on the hockey / football pitch as tough love “It may involve conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate”. Abusive behaviour may be so busy and stressed at work that they don’t have time to “meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs” Justifying that they are not neglecting the child as they are spending a lot of money on their education, but the child is passed from pillar to post with nannies, or often forgotten to be picked up at all.

Abusive behaviour can disguise itself in controversial topics, that many feel uncomfortable talking about, so can go under the radar, topics ” such as travelling to conflict zones, FGM and forced marriage” or Radicalisation refers to the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and forms of extremism”.  

Of course some abusive behaviour is completely unaware what education the child is having.” It may involve serious bullying (including cyberbullying), causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.” or “They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). ”

All the comments in bold are taken from KCSiE but bizarrely one of my schools most time-consuming child protection issue isn’t abuse, it’s the Mental health of our pupils and this is not mentioned at all.  There is a separate document to refer to. As a DSL our training looks a lot at Mental Health and how the number of students who we are concerned about is growing. And I don’t think Independent schools are alone in this. “All school and college staff have a responsibility to identify children who may be in need of extra help or who are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm. All staff then have a responsibility to take appropriate action, working with other services as needed.” Communication with doctors, CAMH, Locality teams and counsellors has increased. State and Independent students suffer from Anxiety, Depression, eating disorders, self-esteem issues and deal with direct self harm and non direct self harm.  I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone.  Perhaps this is why I am so shocked when people say “Child Protection issues don’t happen in independent schools, do they?”



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Assistant Head ( DSL) at a boarding school. Interested in all PSHE and safeguarding topics.

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