The focus on safeguarding is in football at the moment. Previously it has been the entertainment industry and I am sure that it will be somewhere different next month. Possibly cricket, swimming clubs, hockey or gymnastics, which is were I am sitting at the moment watching my daughter attend her weekly gym class. I am not suggesting that these places have issues but an abuser will go anywhere he/ she can. That organisation will then be under serious scrutiny of how they could have prevent the abuse.
Abuser will groom anyone they can and abuse their position of power so we need to make it as difficult as possible for an abuser to be successful. If anything what we have learnt is that what we are doing at the moment isn’t working. So I am confused as to why PSHE isn’t seen as a viable way to address some of these problems. We need to empower the pupils. They already know that abuse is wrong, they don’t need to taught that, but we do need to educate them to be aware that it can happen to them. That people may take advantage of them if they can, and if so what they should do and that we ( adults) will listen and act. We need to give them confidence that we will believe them. That what a groomer has suggested isn’t true.
If you want to be a top footballer then you have to do this, I can get you places, I can help your dream to become a reality but if you tell on me then you will never be the best or play for your dream team.
If we are agreed that this can happen anywhere then it seems silly to wait for the next scandal. I suggest instead of just addressing the safeguarding policies and procedures in individual areas, we need to also give the pupils the power to deal with issues ANYWHERE.
So how can we do this?
- Make PSHE compulsory. Make it clear to schools, staff and parents that it is an important topic. Just as important as Maths and English. This means that students can be educated on what to do if they are concerned about themselves or their friends (something I think we haven’t addressed yet). Not only will it send out a clear message, it will also empower pupils.
- Cover the right topics in PSHE – not just what we think should be covered but what the students want to know. If we don’t show them where to get information then someone/thing else will. This is so important. I am slightly nervous that schools will be prescribed topics to be covered that pupils will not relate to.
- Give staff the correct training, not just PSHE staff. At the moment all staff are trained in “what to do if a child discloses” as per KCSiE but are staff trained in how to teach pupils to have the courage to disclose?
- Educate parents so that they are not as trusting. The press is doing a good job with this already but we need to do more than just scare parents, we need to empower them to ask questions and to communicate with organisations and their children. Make it ok to ask the awkward questions.
- Do parents know what topics are covered in PSHE? if so do they talk it through with their children afterwards? Some parents are nervous about this. Concerned that they don’t understand the terminology and are out of touch. They are also worried about ruining children’s childhood by covering challenging topics. By giving parents resources and links that are covered in PSHE lessons, parents and children can talk and help each other at appropriate levels. This goes back to training of PSHE staff. There are so many great books, web sites or charities that can help but staff need time to discover these. If PSHE is seen as topic that is just padding out staff timetable then they won’t be as keen to look and investigate. Most teachers do take the topic seriously but if you compare the attendance on PSHE training INSET compared to the subject INSET I bet I can guess which is higher.
- Communication between organisations. Do safeguarding leads communicate? Some students spend more time with their sport coaches 1 to 1 than they would do with a teacher at school. Do they know the topics that are covered in PSHE? Should they? I think they should, as many people as possible should be aware what we are educating the pupils about. If an abuser heard then he/she may think twice.
The values taught at schools and in PSHE are vital to the safety of our pupils and until PSHE is seen for its true worth it can’t achieve its full potential.