THORNHAM ST.JAMES PRIMARY SCHOOL
Safeguarding Staff From Allegations Policy
Just as we must ensure children are safe and are happy in our care, we also have a duty of care towards our own staff, who work for and with the children in our school family. Many aspects of this care are covered under various other related policies such as Health & Safety. This document is designed to help all who work with children in this school to be aware of situations or circumstances which could place them in a vulnerable situation and also to ensure that through a professional approach, we avoid such situations as much as is REASONABLY POSSIBLE. This policy is designed to compliment all other policies with special reference also to our Child Protection policy. It is designed to enable staff to understand what to do should there be an allegation made by a child or a parent and also to establish some key protocols which are designed to avoid a situation which could facilitate any allegation.
Key Principles & Professional Guidelines:
- The relationship between staff and students/pupils is a professional one. It is fully expected – and, indeed, hoped – that staff in the school have a friendly and caring relationship with students/pupils; nevertheless, the basis of that relationship is professional not personal. It is suggested that a good test to apply is to reflect on whether the child’s parents would be happy with the relationship if they were standing with you. In some exceptional cases, a parent may be happy – but a staff member may not be! Extremely careful use of professional judgment and standards is required in such circumstances
- A personal relationship between staff and a student/pupil is inappropriate unless it is with the full knowledge and consent of the student’s/pupil’s parents or guardians and is also in keeping with the professional standards laid down for our respective employment roles within the school. Circumstances in which such a personal relationship may arise would be when your own children are friends with those in the school or when you have a personal relationship with parents of children in the school. It is not normally appropriate for a member of staff to meet with a student/pupil out of school hours or off school premises except with the prior knowledge and consent of parents and the school.
- In general, unnecessary physical contact with students/pupils should be avoided. In some circumstances, physical contact between a member of staff and a student/pupil is necessary and beneficial; it might be, for example, that a Reception teacher might need to pick up a 5 year old who has fallen over in the playground. In rare circumstances it may be appropriate for members of staff to use reasonable restraint in circumstances where a student is behaving in a manner which endangers him or herself or other people. In these situations, staff are advised to be very sensitive to the student’s/pupil’s likely reaction and to watch out for signs that the student/pupil is apprehensive or uncomfortable. We all have our own personal space that needs to be protected. Wherever possible when working with students/pupils, other people (adults, colleagues or students/pupils) should be present or the door should be open.
- Over-familiar words and actions, displays of affection, discussion of one’s personal life or the personal life of the student/pupil are normally inappropriate. Sexual innuendo is wrong in all circumstances. Staff are advised to avoid actions, words or expressions that could be interpreted as suggesting that they have an emotional relationship with any student/pupil. In the professional staff-student/pupil relationship it is not appropriate to single a student/pupil out for favours or to suggest to a student/pupil that he or she is a special friend. All pupils should be, and feel that they are, regarded as equal to each other in status.
- It is important that staff ensure that all communications are transparent and open to scrutiny. Staff should not share personal information with students/pupils and should not request or respond to personal information from the student/pupil other than that which is appropriate in their role as teacher. This means that staff should NOT give personal contact details to students/pupils including private email addresses, home or mobile telephone numbers unless absolutely necessary, and if this is the case they should inform a senior member of staff that they are doing so and why!
- It is not normally appropriate for students/pupils to visit a member of staff in their own home. Where such a visit does take place it should be with the full knowledge and consent of either the school or parents or guardians. If possible, more than one adult should be present on such an occasion.
- With older students/pupils, a gathering might be held as part of a celebration. Generally, it is advisable that is held in school. It is essential that professional criteria (e.g. all the students/pupils in a particular teaching or tutorial group) rather than personal criteria (e.g. selected students/pupils only) are used for inviting students/pupils, that the event is held openly, and that senior colleagues are aware of it. Staff on such an occasion have a particular duty to ensure that professional standards are maintained and applied – even if pupils invited or involved are no longer pupils of this school
- Members of staff who in the course of their professional duties need to work on a one-to-one basis with a student/pupil (e.g. a violin lesson, a Maths tutorial, etc.), in particular one of the opposite sex, are advised to take care to ensure that the circumstances of the meeting or lesson are professional. Staff are advised to use a room that has vision panels in the door or keep the door open and ensure that colleagues know that the meeting or lesson is taking place. It is helpful if the meeting or lesson can be arranged during normal school hours or immediately before or after school when there are plenty of other people about.
- Staff must avoid threatening words, intimidating voices and any aggressive contact such as holding, pushing, pulling or hitting, which could amount to or which could be interpreted as a criminal assault. Professional demeanor should be maintained at all times.
- Members of staff do have the right to use reasonable physical force to restrain students/pupils in order to prevent them from committing a criminal offence, injuring others or themselves, damaging property or behaving in such a way as to compromise good order and discipline. The DfES Circular 10/98 sets out more detailed advice simply and clearly.
- Social networking sites, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, pose risks for all staff in terms of professional integrity and the welfare of pupils. Staff should not use these sites to contact or communicate with pupils. Many pupils will post information which is inappropriate in language or visuals. To view such pages may alter your judgement of pupils, to be known to be viewing them may alter a pupil’s view of you, and to comment to pupils about what you have seen is likely to have an impact on your professional reputation as well as possibly causing distress to pupils concerned. Should you become aware of material about yourself, the school, or a pupil that is inappropriate, the Senior Leadership Team should be informed and they will instruct a member of staff to check the allegations and inform the appropriate authorities. You should not check it out yourself.
- If you are at all concerned about anything which has occurred or which has made you uncomfortable, you are strongly encouraged to discuss the matter with a senior colleague at the earliest opportunity even if it turns out that nothing untoward has happened. As a matter of good practice it is advisable to make a written record, dated and signed, of any such incident.
If an allegation is made:
The Headteacher is the named person responsible for child protection and safeguarding of children. Any allegation against a member of staff must be reported to her promptly whilst also maintaining adherence to the school confidentiality policy.
Once an allegation is received, it will be dealt with strict adherence to the child protection policy. This may entail a referral to an appropriate agency, contact with parents or internal investigation – depending upon the nature of an allegation.
Examples of allegations that could be made:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Professional misconduct
- ‘Inappropriate behaviour’ e.g. rudeness or lewd behaviour
- Inappropriate dress or clothing e.g. shorts, low cut tops, bare midriffs
- Discrimination e.g. gender, age or physical disability
These are just some and are ones all staff should be aware of. The fact is that an allegation is usually rare and for most people – they may never encounter one. However, any allegation of any nature will be taken seriously and a proper outcome obtained. In cases where there has clearly been an inappropriate message or behaviour on the part of the member of staff this can lead to disciplinary procedures. It is reasonable to state that staff can help themselves and their colleagues by avoiding a situation which could leave them open or vulnerable to any FALSE allegation being made.
Protocols & Guidelines: St. James’ Specific
- Professional Standards
All staff are professionals and should refer to the professional standards that govern their employment. This is none negotiable and the starting point for all expectations on staff in all their conduct and duties
Members of staff should try to avoid being on their own with a pupil. The concept of “Reasonable Professional Judgement” should apply. We know there may be some situations – an accident, a child confiding an allegation, a child not picked up after school or after football etc. However, staff should try to ensure they are not by themselves if reasonably possible
- First Aid
If a child needs first aid, which may involve personal contact e.g. lifting a skirt, then unless it is an emergency, they should ask for a witness to be present. NB under normal circumstances, no staff member must administer any form of medication.
- Physical Contact
Unless it is in the interest of administering first aid, or an emergency to safeguard a child, then staff should ensure they avoid physical contact with a child. Vulnerable times for a staff member may be, for e.g. during sport if they are demonstrating something, or when a child is young and distressed and comes running with arms open and grabs a teacher. This is not to say for a moment that staff will be cold or indifferent. However, we are talking here about avoiding any contact, which would be deemed inappropriate. For example, staff should avoid hugging or sitting children on their knees, and sensitively discourage those who are “touchy feely” - if this is a problem they must report it and if necessary speak with parents.
- Private Communication
Staff must not communicate with a child by text or by email or phone under normal circumstances. A professional exception would be an emergency involving the child.
- Children’s Dignity
With reference to the age of a child, members of staff should become increasingly aware of children’s dignity as a child gets older. Male staff should not be responsible for girls’ “hygiene” matters – a female member of staff would be far more appropriate. Staff should consider if older girls (or boys) would be better getting changed for PE away from other boys or the staff member.
This is difficult as staff kindly give up their own time for extra curricular events. As long as parents know a staff member may be giving a lift, and as long as that lift is to and from that single event, lifts to - say a sports event – are appreciated and perfectly acceptable. However, unless it is an emergency, staff should try to avoid taking just one child – if they can balance numbers up. Where possible, the children should SIT IN THE BACK (and use seat belts/child seats etc).
- Past Pupils & Visitors
These are welcome – we maintain that past pupils are still part of our family. However, staff must use professionalism and care. It will not be acceptable for any member of staff to be on their own with pupils or past pupils in their room on a regular basis. It stands to reason that they are vulnerable and this is especially so if the staff member is of the opposite sex and if the child is a single visitor. Past pupils coming after school will be welcome for a few minutes and if possible should be seen in a public place like the hall. Unless for work experience, frequent visitors, with no brother or sister in the school must be discouraged and should not be hanging around without parental knowledge or reason especially for a sustained period of time.
Staff should never enter a children’s toilet room unless it is an emergency or a behavioural/discipline issue. Before doing, a verbal warning that someone is about to enter should be given and, if possible, an extra member of staff should also be there. Where possible, male and female staff should keep out of opposite sex toilets unless their job entails going in (e.g. Site Manager). However, even here staff should ensure toilets are empty before entering.
- Professional Duty Of Care & Equality
Staff are responsible for the care of the children and should exercise this with reference to the standards for teachers and the excellence and enjoyment document. In so doing, they should ensure that material used is age appropriate and suitable. Care should be taken not to discriminate in any way. This includes any intended or unintended sublime messages and stereotyping.
- Aggressive Conduct
If a teacher feels that their safety is likely to be compromised in meeting with a parent or pupil due to an aggressive record, verbal abuse, rudeness and drugs or alcohol for example, then that member of staff will not be required to meet. Any acts of aggression will not be tolerated and action will be taken which could include removal from the building and reporting to the Police. Any member of staff who feels their welfare may be compromised must not hesitate to report the fact. If at all possible, it is advisable to meet with parents in an ‘open’ classroom so other members of staff may intervene if any acts of aggression start unexpectedly.
If a false allegation is made against any member of staff, it will be recorded, reported to Governors and action will be taken with close reference to the school discipline policy. The school will have no hesitation in using sanctions to protect staff, as well as the full force of the law. All false allegations will be taken as seriously as any substantiated allegation!